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The most appetizing of the Pastorius/Melvin studio dates is the first, Brian Melvin’s Night Food(1985), a title taken from Buddy Rich’s quote, “Everyone Should Eat a Little Night Food.” The recording is their only collaboration (of five) released while Pastorius was still living. It is Melvin’s sharpest, tightest playing, perhaps his finest work. He even emulates a young Buddy Rich on the hottest cut, “For Max,” on which bass and percussion dominate. Pastorius is wonderfully relentless with his fluidity and speed, tossing in a few familiar riffs, just enough to tease, while Brian lets loose with precision contact, in perfect sync with Pastorius. Much unlike Melvin’s later Night Food project with Pastoriusand Bob Weir (released in 1988), Night Food is a mostly instrumental, rocking, jazz fusion affair; nothing light here. Guitarist Paul Mousavi’s (Mousavizadeh) input is more integral to this recording than on other Melvin releases. The overriding atmosphere in “Zen Turtles” is clearly due to Mousavi’s mood-evoking guitar lines. Chadhouri’s bongo beats, Osammon’s synthetic strings, and Melvin’s intricate drum work enhance the composition’s beauty. Mousavi’s performance on the progressive “Poly Wanna Rhythm” smacks of early Allan Holdsworth, and with Melvin’s hot contribution on drums, the piece sounds reminiscent of U.K.’s debut album. Mousavi also scores on the lengthy “Warrior,” featuring Jon Davis’ flowing runs on the piano keys.
Pastorius’ important role on Night Food is one of discipline. His frequently restrained playing actually embellishes the compositions, best exemplified on “Primalass.” Pastorius and saxophonist Rick Smithshare the spotlight, alternating solos; Smith wails, Pastorius keeps it all solidly grounded, and Melvin’s snappy percussion locks in the freshness. A long, slowly paced rendition of Pastorius’ “Continuum” brings the CD to a close. This is one of Pastorius’ finest reproductions of the composition, which he introduces with lines from “If I Only Had a Brain” (Wizard of Oz). His playing is thoughtful; the notes are handsomely executed, clearly defined and vibrant. Melvin’s entrance on cymbals halfway into the piece is a perfect touch. A bit tough to locate, Night Food is a must for fans of Pastorius, Melvin, and the genre.