Monday, July 2, 2012

Guitarist Jennifer Batten - Past and Future

- David "Skinny Devil" McLean
 Originally publsuihed at Tinfoil Music
Date: Wednesday, April 07 2004 @ 15:31:42 BST

               The disc opens with a wicked drum groove, eerie vocals sounds, and a pseudo-fade, then explodes into a huge drum & funky bass jam that will plaster you to the wall. Seconds later, a screaming guitar crashes in playing a twisted and fiery melody, with a second clean guitar playing stabs of ethnic harmonic icing. This is the beautiful assault that is Jennifer Batten's "Wodaabe Dancer" from her second CD, "Momentum".
Jennifer Batten on stage with Michael Jackson

This is the guitarist who brought us a fearless version of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" (played with all 8 fingers on the fretboard, no less!) as the opening of her debut CD, "Above, Below, & Beyond". She is planning to release her 3rd solo offering soon, so let's take a quick look at her past work now.

     Ms. Batten's first CD careens nearly out of control with the second track, "You Ain't Nothin' Like a Fast Car" - neck-break rhythm, borg-like vocals, and constant insane guitar. The CD continues with outrageous trax like "Whammy Damage", super-cool tunes like Jennifer's instrumental version of Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", and fierce but complex cuts like "Cruzin' the Nile" and Coltrane's "Giant Steps". It also has some kick-ass vocals (care of Kali of Medusa) on Otis Redding's "Respect" and a scary version of Sambello's "Voo Doo" (Michael Sambello also produced the album). There is not one weak track on the entire work!

One of my favorite cuts is the gorgeous "Cruzin' the Nile", which opens with Jennifer's guitar playing a clean but super funky groove (using her patented 2-hands on the neck technique). Beautiful tones and a crystalline wash of harmonics as her dancing fingers are backed by shakers and other small percussion devices (care of the Sylmarian Percussion Group), hushed bass, and a mysterious intermittent vocal. This track is followed by the outlandish "Tar-zenz Day Off", which features more terrifying guitar lines, thumping rhythm section, and layers of melody and sound.

The work, produced in 1992, is so alive & fresh that it sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday. But Jennifer didn't stop there. After tours with Michael Jackson, writing for Guitar Player Magazine, and teaching at GIT, Jennifer released 1997's "Tribal Rage".

"Momentum" (Jennifer Batten's Tribal Rage) showcases more of not only Jennifer's super-agile electric guitar, but her complex compositional mind. The song's second cut, "Elephant Stomp", eases in and slowly builds into a cool groove with sliding clean guitars backing a effervescent guitar melody that incorporates Ms. Batten's passion for bizarre noises and quirky, ultra-fast embellishments. The CD continues on with guitars soaring in multiple directions over some of the heaviest & funkiest grooves this side of Prince crashing a Godsmack rehearsal.

Sweeping 32nd note legato passages crash against uber-articulated staccato runs, lilting melodies are lazer-beamed into insane themes, clean complex chords are tortured with whammy abuse....all to delightful and grand effect.

"Scotsman in the Caribbean", for example, has Jennifer's guitar mimicking both bag-pipes and steel drums, not to mention the rather bizarre idea of bag-pipes playing over steel drums to begin with! Another track, "The Swarm" (her follow-up to "Flight of the Bumblebee"), features bass & guitar emulated bees humming, massive drum groove, exotic chordal splashes, and some of the weirdest (and coolest!) guitar playing ever recorded.

Overall, "Momentum" is a tad less frenetic than "Above, Below, & Beyond". Both, however, demonstrate extremely sophisticated compositional techniques, driving grooves, ethereal soundscapes, and brilliant guitar work. Jennifer Batten the guitarist is second to none, and should take her place in the hearts and minds of guitar hungry fans along side names like Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Joe Satriani...and any other names that constantly top guitar polls.

Jennifer Batten the composer also stands alongside giants of rock fusion guitar, demonstrating a sophistication and subtly rarely displayed in any genre.

While Jennifer is probably best known for her tapping technique and recordings & tours with Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck, there is so much more to Jennifer Batten the musician that we owe it to ourselves to pick up a copy of these incredible works. But don't take my word for it. Trek to Amazon, Guitar-9, and Jennifer's web-site and listen to the samples for yourself.

Jennifer's new CD, as yet untitled, is slated for release before the end of the year............

     Check out Jennifer's "Guitar Gods" interview here and check out the entire "Guitar Gods" interview.

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