By: Sarah Moore
Trey Anastasio fans waited with expectant ears for his latest release, The Horseshoe Curve (Rubber Jungle Records). Featuring Trey and his band The Dectet, the album opens with the most crisp, upbeat salsa funk one can muster. Curve is about Trey getting back to his funky, inspired self. Without going into intrusive tabloid fodder, this particular critic notes that a spark is back to his playing. This music comes from someone who knows healing, as if this record resets any missed or lapsed time from his true self.
His most grandiose since Seis de Mayo (his instrumental album from 2004), Curve finds Trey getting back to the vitals that made him such a standout in the first place. Think Trey pre-Shine. The percussion by Cyro Baptista takes us to Little Mermaid "Under the Sea" beginnings on "Sidewalks of San Francisco," where Trey just slightly lets us know he's there on guitar. In fact, Trey's presence is not really made the center of attention beyond his solos. This is not to say that Trey is in the background, because he does step up and shove the current to epic places. The horn section (Dave Grippo, Jen Hartswick, Peter Apfelbaum, Russell Remington and Andy Moroz) enters the groove, punctuating each line with precision.
The second track, "Olivia," oozes influences, particularly from Steely Dan's "Josie." Remington plays flute on several tracks, causing some to hover between rocking funk and upbeat elevator jazz. "Olivia" fizzles into "Burlap Sack and Pumps," with a low-end solo from Tony Markellis that becomes an assault on the funk receptors. Saxophone and keys from Ray Paczkowski join the super greasy funk attack, which retains an island warmth welcome here in January. Anastasio mentions on his website that this track has similar musical phrasing to the vocal layers on such Phish songs as "Twist" and "Bouncing Around the Room."
Dissonant harmonies on "The 5th Round" characterize the melody of its refrain. A speedy mixture of Phish-like jams recorded at a live performance make this track a real treat. At the pinnacle of the song, a train whizzes by, all whistles and thunder and clanging. A magnetic performance, this conjures images of stars colliding. Trey is obviously doing something right.
The electric guitar noodling throughout goes somewhere and doesn't fizzle out. There also aren't many extraneous sections or dead end musical tangents, helping to keep this short album (40 minutes) accessible. Trey has shown that he can still be experimental and cutting edge while retaining his signature sound.
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