Jeff Pennachio – Setting The Stage EP
Release Date: 22/01/2021
Running Time: 13:32
Review by Martin Bennewith
Before listening to this EP, knowing that it was an instrumental rock album, I expected it to be something that would be enjoyed by guitarists and those of us who like action flick film scores (think Top Gun!). As a guitarist, I was looking forward to listening to it, and after taking some time cluing myself up about Jeff Pennachio, I was expecting to have that jaw dropping moment when you hear a great guitarist in action. I was not disappointed.
The first track, ‘Wilson Theater’ sounds like it is trying to tell a sad story. Slow tempo and emotional strings and piano, along with powerful percussion, set the backdrop for the delightful lead phrasing. Although at first the virtuoso composed playing style sometimes detracts from what Pennachio is trying to convey, the way he flows through the first few sections, combining slow melody with scalular runs, adds to the interest and overall feel. There are satisfying time signature changes as well as powerful rhythmic sections to add to the tension. Towards the beginning, there were a couple of parts where I thought my speakers were giving up, but it seems there was some clipping on the guitar track that although probably deliberate, did seem a bit odd. Overall, though, this was a nice introduction for me to a great guitarist.
Next is ‘Interposition’. This brought a smile to my face. In contrast to ‘Wilson Theater’, it has a major, happy feel. The high register piano melody, along with soft strings and once again, powerful rhythm section provides the backdrop to some impressive playing. There are plenty of time signature changes as well as some key changes, and the way he plays through them is breathtaking. In parts he doubles up on the guitar, to either play differing lines or creating harmonies, and they both work well. Once again it does sound a bit mechanical, but this more so demonstrates a high level of musicianship than spoiling the piece.
The final track ‘The Voyager’, for me is saving the best until last. Starting off with some heavy synth stabs and some ambient piano, it breaks out into something heavy and sinister. The muted rhythm guitar and heavy bass and drums, along with the ambient breaks make this one really rock, and once again playing some neat lead over a myriad of time and key changes with little effort. I also detected a lot more feel to his playing compared to the other two tracks. The overall composition and mix works a treat, and builds up to a great ending. A very powerful track to end the proceedings.
“Setting The Stage” is only 3 tracks long, but in these 3 somewhat diverse tracks, Jeff Pennachio demonstrates just what a great instrumentalist and guitarist he is. Knowing that the music was all his own work makes it even more impressive. It is not by any means ground-breaking stuff, and at times it lacks a bit of the ‘rough around the edges’ feel that might help him connect with a wider audience, but this is definitely one for the players and admirers of great lead guitarists. A very biased 9/10.
‘Interposition’ (Official Guitar Play-Through)
Jeff Pennachio – Guitars, Drums, Bass, Orchestrations, Programming
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