June 14, 2024


(Blue Thumb – 2001)
by John Barrett

In this dense, flavorful stew of a record, one is never sure what will come up next. These guys love their pop culture: spy and go-go themes appear often, with the steady thump of ’70s funk. While this goes on, other things slither though: scraping metal on “Sahara Sod”, giving way to massed horns. Bobby Read does some Brecker-like tenor, while John D’Earth sounds ancient on his muted trumpet. Suddenly Read switches to bass clarinet, dubbing several to play the theme – and that’s just the first minute. The tune’s title makes sense when Bobby plays Arabian themes on his flute, next to Tim Kobza’s exotic guitar.

There’s a tough Latin groove on “Some of That”, as the horns TRY to match Kevin Davis’ fury on the drums. (They can’t, but get wonderfully close.) The deep reeds moan on “Tree Blind”, burbling like a didgeridoo; D’Earth blares with his mute, creating a textured fog. The theme is mournful but somehow comforting; “Nitrous” is hot and dirty, with exhaust from a dozen weathered horns. Flutes bark, Jimmy Haslip snaps the mean bass, and Kobza smokes a wah-wah guitar … in contrast to the feel-good vibe of “L.A.-VA”. Nothing here is terribly substantive, but it sure is fun. Think of it as a soundtrack to an especially freaky Austin Powers movie.

If you take away the sampling and other effects, it sounds like a jam-band with horns – lots of good playing, but indulgent at times. Reed pipes a shrill riff on “Slump Town”, with a slew of dubbed flutes – he’s a calliope all by himself! Kobza’s turn is bluesy and sweet; it ends with a keyboard squiggle on top of an old bossa record. D’Earth gets his chance on :Old Creed”, unfurling sift notes on a fusion background. Wait for Kobza’s psychedelic solo, creeping its way over the Fender Rhodes. “Schoolin'” is a fractured acid-jazz lick (Zac Rae has the RIGHT sound on organ) and “Heart of Seoul” has a runaway synthesizer making all the noise it can. There’s a lengthy false ending, and an untitled bonus track, with lazy rhythm and looped monkey noises. If you want to feel groovy, give this a spin, It’s lightweight, but the musicianship is heavy.

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