Skywalk is a band making an earnest, but not yet successful effort to find an identity. In its opening set at At My Place this week, the Vancouver fusion sextet played a collection of energetic, rock-tinged music that never quite seemed to find its center.
Paced by the strong lead guitar solos of Harris Van Berkel and the articulate keyboard work of Graeme Coleman, Skywalk got all the externals right. On the surface, the group performed with precision and accuracy. But once the outer layers were peeled away, there was too little left in the music to capture either the spirit or the imagination.
Opening with “Paradiso” from a new Zebra / MCA recording, then moving quickly into an earlier, funk-based piece titled “Enough Damage for One Day,” Skywalk too often seemed in determined pursuit of a style that lay somewhere between Spyro Gyra and the Yellowjackets. The stylistic vagueness was most apparent in a ballad--"From the Shadows"--by saxophone player Tom Keenlyside, in which the piece’s gentle lyricism was constantly jarred by Keenlyside’s too-obvious affection for the playing of David Sanborn.
Several other group members spoke with more original voices: Van Berkel’s persistently passionate guitar lines, especially on “Enough Stuff"; Coleman’s funky keyboard improvisation on “Jesse James"; Rene Worst’s lyrical bass solo on “View From the Bridge.” Drummer Kat Hendrikse and percussionist Jim McGillveray provided solid, dependable rhythm support.
By the time the set was over, it was apparent that Skywalk has the players and (to a somewhat lesser extent) the compositions to make a far more effective creative impact. But, like a very good football team reaching for the Top 10, the group’s talented performers need to take their game up another level.