During the acid jazz resurgence of the mid- to late-nineties, such artists as the Greyboy AllStars, Charlie Hunter, and Galactic led this neo-movement with fierce musicianship and intricately smooth psychadelic grooves, firmly rooted in the tradition of late-sixties/early-seventies-era acid jazz pioneers Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, and Jimmy Smith. Several younger bands have continued to push this musical sound forward into the new milennium, and such is the case with Austin, Texas’s talented instrumental quartet Gnappy.
Gnappy's self titled debut, recorded over the course of only a few days in guitarist Buck McKinney’s studio, brings the listener through a musical journey of improvised peaks and valleys, touching on several styles of music within the acid jazz landscape. Boasting "no synthesizers, keys, organs, pan flutes or artificial preservatives" in their liner notes, the band’s intial recording displays the raw musicianship of the groove based foursome. The band has made a splash on the Austin, Texas musical community, in which it routinely performs live, and is one are some of the most impressive new genertaion acid jazz musicians.
The quartet begins their album with a slower hip-hop based groove called "Purple Cadillac," a song whose tight pocket is backed by washes and tonal colors provided by Marcus Cardwell, the band’s innovator who plays not only the saxophone, but "cb radio and barks" to add more abstract and somewhat psychedelic sounds to the musical mixture. Throughout most of the album, Cardwell takes the melodic lead with his saxophone and directs the top half of the music brilliantly, as guitarist, Buck McKinny sits more in the background with funk rhythms and saxaphone comps. Yet, McKinny does emerge to the forefront of several of the tunes, such as the slower and swinging "10-Hi Sauce," with searing solos and well-improvised silky melodies.
A true highlight of the album is the third track, titles "Black Cabbage." This song features a faster and more intricate afro-cuban based drumbeat and percussion with extremely tight and impressive guitar and saxophone interplay. Brad Bradburn keeps the rhythms tight with phrases ranging from faster to dub bass lines as the track goes through many changes, including some haunting ambience which is cleverly built back into the latin-infused theme. This real driving groove shows off the entire band and displays some of the most impressive playing on the album.
Drummer Kevin Pearson is consistently impressive throughout the release, keeping the smooth rhythms chugging and swinging with impressive technique, fills and bass interplay. Constantly changing directions with Bradburn, while providing the backing for Cardwell’s impressive saxophone work and antics, Pearson is certainly the rhythmic backbone for the quartet. Ranging from hip-hop and smooth lounge based rhythms, to faster and more technical beats depending on the song, Pearson’s versatility is evident throughout the nine-track debut LP.
With tracks ranging from the fiery and chugging, to the smooth, trip-hop, sexy and melodic, Gnappy’s self-titled debut is an excellent addition to anyone’s acid-jazz collection. And as always, stay tuned to JamBase to keep up with Gnappy’s constant local and regional tour schedule!
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