Joe Albano's debut album Open the Gate and Flood the Valley
is an intense spectacle of some daring music, often expressed with complex lines, intense vamps and grooves; at times it even takes shape in experimental or free improvisation. It is no coincidence Albano launched his group under the name Joe and the Meanderthals, as once in a while there seems to be some aimless or undetermined wandering around happening in their music. This is in no way to be taken as a negative comment the modern day Neanderthals aggressiveness and ignorance of society's current rules and norms bring a whole new approach to freedom and meandering freely throughout the planet. Joe's music often goes against the rules take the first track Cry Foul" as an example. Steve Ruel's solo as well as Joe Albano's solo begin in a seemingly free tangle, sooner or later locking back into familiar harmony and rhythm. Now it isn't that Joe and the Meanderthals are just ignorant au contraire!
Whereas a modern day Neanderthal is somebody who is not familiar with current trends, a musician better be familiar with the presence and more importantly with the past, as it is the only way to successfully build on it. Joe and his group certainly have an extensive knowledge of their predecessors. Only a solid background and masterly control over your instrument(s) lets you go a step further.
Attending a catholic school in Massachusetts that had no budget for music and growing up as part of a family that had no real interest in music, it is quite astonishing where Joe Albano is at today. Joe once said that as a kid he would every so often listen to an avant-garde jazz radio show at 6:30am during breakfast, driving his mom crazy. At a young age, musicians like Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, Joe Henderson, John Coltrane or Anthony Braxton would wake Joes interest.
He emphasizes though, that a lot of music was mistakenly called free, while it was actually just pushing the boundaries by being extremely complicated. Much like Joe's music which may at times sound very complex, but is still based on relatively simple vamps or familiar harmony for the most part. Open the Gate and Flood the Valley is also proof that Joe is not simply emulating his childhood woodwind heroes. His eclectic and unique improvisations speak for themselves, not to mention his compositions that combine jazz with the likes of Rock and Heavy Metal. Joe Albano clearly found his own voice, though in such an early stage of his career. He is an avant-garde musician in the literal sense an innovator and daring experimentalist yet incorporating a strong background of form and structure in order to create a message that is overloaded with energy.
Joe's compositions and performances are captivating and mesmerizing, his control over almost every woodwind instrument, including the EWI (title track Open the Gate and Flood the Valley") is inconceivable. Unless you are a hopeless musical Neanderthal (!), you have to embrace Open the Gate and Flood the Valley with an open mind and open ears and the music will let you travel to places you have never even thought of before. Joe and the Meanderthals are the kind of energetic musicians that will make you get off your butt and not the kind of musicians you want to be listening to on your way to bed unless of course you are ready to be taken on an intense journey first.
--Linus Wyrsch, breakthruradio.com