Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Blood on the Leaf: Opus No. 1 [Trugroid, 2001]
Like most major writers, Greg Tate--the young Ironman turned older-than-that-now Ionman--pursues music at his peril. When I've heard him play guitar in public, I've only wished he'd go finish his novel--or, better still, write more about music. So call this dimly mastered Black Rock Coalition spinoff living criticism. It's electric Miles with soul, "Maggot Brain" with a Ph.D., the Hendrix-Evans band of dreams, the underwater funk some hear in A.R. Kane. With due respect to badmuthashutyo guitarist Morgan Michael, Mandarinsprechen banshee guitarist Rene Akhan, and unstemmed crimson tide guitarist Kirk Douglass, the standout player is piano virtuoso Vijay Iyer, and let us now praise Human Switchboard and Freedy Johnston stalwart Jared Michael Nickerson, though Tate hisself wrote the basslines. But the ensemble is all, and the opus subsumes its parts. A-