The murderer’s row of fusioneers that bassist/composer Scott Petito assembled for Rainbow Gravity is both exciting and foreboding. It implies great playing and—not unrelatedly—big, self-indulgent spotlights for the heavyweights. But while the chops are indeed fearsome, the album turns out surprisingly tight, thanks in no small part to Petito’s writing.
One remarkable example: Despite the presence of Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Omar Hakim, and Simon Phillips, Rainbow Gravity contains precisely one drum solo. It is Erskine’s, about two thirds of the way through “The Sanguine Penguin,” and it is not an unrestrained crash-fest but a scrupulous groover, as carefully composed as the complex but impeccably phrased tune around it. Even “Dark Pools” and “Symbol Bells,” duets between Petito and DeJohnette, avoid pyrotechnics for the sake of icy ambient textures.
The rest of the album proceeds in kind. Unsurprisingly, Petito has the longest leash in terms of solo space, though his piccolo bass can be mistaken for David Spinozza’s guitar. It is also no surprise, though, that the album’s composer is the most adherent to the written parameters, navigating the sinuous melodic and harmonic curves of “The Sequence of Events” with oaky beauty. (To his credit, however, Petito does the same with the fretless lines on his cover of Carla Bley’s “Lawns.”) Vibraphonist Mike Mainieri provides the chopsiest moment—on “A Balsamic Reduction”—but even this is on close inspection a model of melodic grace.
If Petito’s compositions are impressive for the control they effect, they’re also formidable for their own sake. There’s a Prince-like vibe to the funk of “Sly-Fi,” while both “A Balsamic Reduction” and the title track have an appealing mellowness. Even the African polyrhythms of “Masika” show Petito to have mastered a delicacy that’s in short supply in the fusion universe.