“I DIDN’T PLAY Doors music for a long time after Ray Manzarek passed away,” sighs Robby Krieger. Instead, when Manzarek, his longtime friend and keyboard foil in the Doors — the group in which both musicians became rock legends in the 1960s alongside drummer John Densmore and late singer Jim Morrison — passed away in 2013 from cancer, Krieger took a break from performing Doors material for the next half-decade and threw himself into the jazzier side of his musical personality. He deepened his alliance with Frank Zappa bassist/arranger Arthur Barrow — not to mention Zappa alumni like keyboardist Tommy Mars and trumpeter Sal Marquez.
The result, honed over several years of live gigs and studio dates, is the bebop- and fusion-infused instrumental LP The Ritual Begins at Sundown, which boasts an original Krieger abstract painting on the cover and the kind of altered-scale-tinged melodic heads one might associate with players like John Scofield, Kurt Rosenwinkel or even Zappa, whom Krieger pays homage to on a blazing cover of “Chunga’s Revenge.” It features wicked horn/guitar harmonies and a wild free-form solo that recalls Zappa’s SG- through-a-parked-wah tone and the almost-dissonant flurries and fuzz arcs of Krieger’s solo on the Doors’ “When the Music’s Over.”
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