By: Jake Krolick
Certain events defy a logical explanation. The Free Form Funky Freqs - a power trio comprised of legendary guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and drummer G. Calvin Weston - have a chemistry that runs deeper than logic can explain. The trio's first album, Urban Mythology, Volume One (released February 12 by Thirsty Ear), summarizes their varied histories with a heavy lean on the free jazz side of funk. Urban Mythology, Volume One is a wildly funky CD that began as a sit down for the closing of the infamous NYC venue Tonic. Shortly afterwards, the trio played a second gig at Philly's Tritone. They then paused to record this album, which was only their third time playing together!
Reid gained most of his fame shredding for Living Colour, but he cut his teeth playing free jazz with Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society. Lately, he has partnered with DJ Logic in the Yohimbe Brothers, as well as the hired gun of choice for James Blood Ulmer's dirty recordings. G. Calvin Weston has also recorded with a diverse group of artists and shared the stage with Jamaaladeen Tacuma in Ornette Coleman's Prime Time Band . The Philadelphia bassist has stuck close to his funk and jazz roots, dropping his own bass bombs around the globe since the '80s.
Loaded with free-form jazz and hot-to-the-touch funk, Volume One opens with a gruesome jam that pushes the 12-minute mark. "A Tale Of Two Bridges" switches from massive chords into '80s sounding synth guitar and vigorous funk, taunting you to continue to the second track. Tacuma's hard, slapping bass on "Over and Under" sets up Reid's solo race across the funk. On much of the record Weston's drumming is intensely driven towards the rock genre but contains enough tempo modifications and spice to please jazzier audiences.
Reid's stout riffing and quick soloing brings to mind a young Jeff Beck mixed with Bisco's Jon Gutwillig and then some. He lets loose sounds during "A Tale Of Two Bridges" that would inspire a Sound Tribe Sector 9 enthusiast to shake, and he tosses a change-up in "Street Corner Prophecy" that could warm the insides of a Dinosaur Jr. fan. Tacuma's punchy, rippling bass and Weston's thaw-whack strokes provide musical momentum while still keeping the trio grounded. The mix underemphasizes the drums, which forms a slightly skewed version of how they sound live. The Free Form Funky Freqs do hit a few lows as they noodle and wander during certain songs. There are moments where your patience will be tested, but the album's flashes of genius are so consistent it doesn't matter.
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