Sicilian born multi-instrumentalist Gino Foti first came to my attention through his association with the progressive rock/fusion group Electrum. The three piece instrumental outfit consisted of guitarist Dave Kulju, percussionist Joe Musmanno, and anchored by the brilliant keyboard work of Gino Foti. Electrum incorporated the best elements of groups like Rush, King Crimson, Kansas, Djam Karet, the French group Edhels, and synthesizer ace Larry Fast’s Synergy project for their two albums “Frames Of Mind” (1998) and “Standard Deviation” (2002).
So when I received these two solo CDs from Foti to review I was quite interested to see which path he would take. Would the compositions be harder edged progressive works ala Derek Sherinian, grand scale symphonic pieces reminiscent of Synergy or Vangelis, or would he possibly travel the route explored by progressive rock keyboardists like Kit Watkins (formally of Happy The Man) - the expanding new age and World Music genre?
The title of the two CDs should have been a dead give-a-way. “Orbis Terrarum” (translated – “circle of lands”) and “Sphere Of Influence” – my suggestion is ‘file under World Music’. On both “Orbis Terrarum” and “Sphere Of Influence” Foti acts as our tour guide on a musical adventure around the globe, opting to temper the hard edged Rush and Crimson influences of Electrum for an eclectic infusion of contemporary jazz, new age sensibilities, avant-garde, funk, and the percussive rhythm of the World heartbeat.
Foti incorporates an ethnic potpourri of musical styles into his compositions: Cuban, African, European, Native American, and Middle Eastern. His tightly constructed instrumental arrangements bring to mind the jazz fusion group Shadowfax, the ambient Asian influenced Jade Warrior, or the later period new age works of Mike Oldfield.
Gino Foti performs on bass guitar, MIDI bass, keyboards, loops and samples. The keyboard samples emulate a wide range of ethnic string instruments, Chinese flutes and wind instruments, expanding the palate to create a full rich symphony of sound.
His fluid bass style is reminiscent of Percy Jones (Brand X), Finnish bassist Pekka Pohjola, Jaco Pastorius, or Mark Egan ... expressively using the fretless bass as a lead instrument.
Assisting Foti on both albums are fellow Electrum alumni Dave Kulju on electric guitar (“Dionysian Stream” – Orbis Terrarum & “Heart And Mind United” – Sphere Of Influence) and Chris Rossi on piano (“A Brief Eclipse” – Orbis Terrarum & “Degrees Of Force” – Sphere Of Influence). For fans of New Age and World Music both albums are well worth a listen.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on March 26th, 2007