Guitarist Ray Ferretti stirs together the sonic experimentation of progressive rock and the rhythm-oriented structure of jazz so effortlessly well on his latest CD Leaf Juice it's almost like those two styles were parts of the same genre. Even more impressive is that Ferretti, for the most part, flies solo on this project, jamming by himself on the guitar, bass, and much of the keyboards; he was responsible for all of the drum programming, too.
What happens often during one-man band projects is that the music results in excessive noodling and cold, alienating compositions. However, that is not the case here; in fact, it's far from it. Leaf Juice is actually a warm, personal effort, and Ferretti's guitar playing radiates feelings of happiness and loss that is generally absent from prog rock, which usually aims for cerebral analysis. The opening track, The Crooked Straight," crackles with the thunderous crunch of Ferretti's guitar. The metallic howl of Ferretti's guitar is countered by the jazzy snap of his bass.
Both prog and jazz fans have much to savor from The Crooked Straight" alone but Ferretti has a few surprises falling from his sleeve. Dancing With the Angels" is an ethereal beauty. Ferretti's incandescent guitar paints layers of otherworldly atmospherics, as if he is illustrating a picture of Heaven with his instrument. The appropriately titled Chris Funker," on other hand, veers into sweaty funk with a bracing blast of wah-wah. Ron Thomas, one of three guest artists who briefly appear on the CD, contributes pulsating electric piano on the title cut.
The highlight of the album is Song for My Mother," an emotionally charged tribute to Ferretti's late mom with mesmerizingly shimmering guitar riffs that communicate a spiritual calmness which stays with you long after the CD has stopped spinning.