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Joel Hoekstra


From EER-Music.com.

Joel Hoekstra has come up with a collection of tracks that aim to make this album fall into the category of "Undefined" in your local music store. Though there is a definite thread of style that is woven through this album, Hoekstra is not easily pinned to one genre or style, and apparently likes it that way so that he is free to indulge in his wide-ranging musical fancies. "Undefined" squarely plants one leg in the realm of jazz fusion, but hops around with the other leg into a number of other musical styles resembling smooth jazz, progressive, instrumental rock, and sometimes just plain, goofy (though musically involved and entertaining) songs. But, Hoekstra is not contented by just staking his wide musical territory, and he is intent on proving his talent and capabilities in every venue that he ventures into.

The album opens with a slew of tracks that establish the groove-based jazz / fusion foundation of the effort. The tracks present accessible themes, rhythms, and grooves that are accentuated by Hoekstra's savvy brand of soloing. The stream takes a diversion with the sixth track, "Gorilla Man 2000," that introduces a more hard-edged rock style with its crunching, distorted rhythms and instrumental rock-like guitar solos. This new dimension to the album is a pleasant surprise because it offers a new direction that adds scope to the overall concept. But, Hoekstra does not stop there. The next track, "Kill Swing", ventures further out into the realm of musical styles by incorporating into the album the swing jazz underpinnings that are highlighted by the aggressive, fusionoid guitar solos that immediately bring Scott Henderson to my mind. This track, "Kill Swing," seems to me to be the point in the album where Hoekstra really opens up and lets loose in a manner that makes you think he was holding back up until this point in the album.

Now that he has grabbed your attention with his divergence from the low-keyed jazz / fusion that characterizes the early part of the album, Hoekstra continues on his boundary-stretching rampage with the next track, "Space Cowboy". "Space Cowboy" is a goofy, country / Western, finger-picking, cowboy jamboree that spoofs the old-time Chet Atkins guitar style with Western vocals. Though the song spoofs this type of Western, it actually pays an impressive tribute to the style of country / Western guitar work that it embraces and does so in a very entertaining way through the use of space-oid affects and the comical lyrics. The versatility demonstrated by "Space Cowboy" is reminiscent of Steve Morse's wide scope of styles.

Hoekstra is able to continue his romp through the realm of musical styles with the track "Slide Tune" that brings yet another pleasant surprise to the album. This track features some very melodical and well-felt slide guitar work. The themes presented are really classy and addictively accessible with their upbeat and inspiring nature. The feel is that of a straight ahead rock song, though strictly instrumental and thankfully so because the instrumental music stands on its own. "Slide Tune" is my favorite track from the album and is good enough that it could receive radio airtime on a number of different venues.

Sometimes you might listen to a new album where the musicians try to cover a wide array of styles to demonstrate their Steve Morse-induced need to prove their diverse capabilities. Once in a while, you will come across a new artist that is actually capable of pulling something like this off without seeming like an imitation, and, in fact, seems more like the genuine article. Hoekstra is the exception that can pull it off, and he has on Undefined. This guy is the real deal and is worth checking out. If Virgil Donati thought this music was good enough to warrant his attention on the drums, this just might be an indication of the caliber of music that you will get on this album. It's not just good music here, it's good entertainment!

-Chris Ruel

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