On Earth Is a Cruel Master vibraphonist Marc Wagnon, guitarist Van Manakas and bassists Leo Traversa (electric bass) and Danny Stone (acoustic bass) form forward-thinking jazz fusion. The eight-song, 50-minute outing is an inviting exhibition of space jam, prog rock, modern jazz and world music that sensibly crosses genres, intermingling elements that should interest Brand X, Weather Report or Pat Metheny fans.

The philosophical “Dark Matters,” like other cuts, develops a melodic line along a generous groove and is medicated by Manakas’ vibrato-shaded guitar. The rhythmically rich “Light at the End” is a brisker adventure where Wagnon’s overdubbed vibes, drums, percussion and marimba and Traversa’s bustling bass create a prompt pulse matched by Manakas’ six-string diversions. “Embarquement” has a lingering funk foundation with a jam band quality akin to Medeski, Martin & Wood.

While Wagnon justifiably maintains continuity throughout his compositions, he also, unfortunately, generates a similarity that gives the album a semblance of standardization.

Grade: B

Earth Is a Cruel Master is currently available.