The mark of a real pro - what one calls a musician’s musician - is a distinctive flavor to their playing. While a lot of people play the guitar it isn’t always easy to pick out a single player from the pack just by ear. That’s why the good lord gave us liner notes. Amongst the sea of six-string samurais there stand a few ronin, rogue figures who punch through the sameness of so much picking to make one’s ears sizzle every time they pick up an axe. One such person is David “Fuze” Fiuczynski.
"I don’t have a huge following, I’m not a big star but what I have going for myself is my sound. I just don’t sound like anyone else," says Fiuczynski. This is not a boast by any means. In fact, for someone so talented and so singled out by magazines like Guitar Player and Jazz Times, David possesses a quiet humility that bespeaks the inner calm of a Zen archer or Shaolin monk, the kind of people dedicated on a spiritual and material level to the life they have chosen. Or maybe more appropriately, the life that has chosen them. He continues, "Up until a few years ago you could say I was just this guy who played freaked out stuff. You could hear some Hendrix, some wild whammy bar stuff, some pre-funk stuff like James Blood (Ulmer) but now that I’m playing fretless and introducing new things I just sound like myself."
His humbleness also emerges in talking about his work as an instructor at the legendary Berklee School of Music in Boston, a position that allows him to go out on the road and make a rare visit to the West Coast soon. "I enjoy teaching. I really learn a lot from every student," he says. "It doesn’t matter which level, even if it’s just a different way of perceiving a certain chord or a scale or a sound."
Many of us were introduced to Fuze’s playing on Lunar Crash, a landmark ‘90s album with John Medeski (MMW) that blew out the dust off soft, living-room jazz fusion and bum-rushed it back to its incendiary roots. It had all the fire and spirit of early Tony Williams or Mahavishnu Orchestra but with a metallic tinge that stuck to the roof of the mind. This was followed up by the equally distinctive flavors of Screaming Headless Torsos, a band led by David including vocalist Dean Bowman and celebrated drummer Gene Lake. Smaller projects too numerous to list brought Fiuczynski into studios and onto stages with the likes of Bernie Worrell, Me’Shell NdegOcello, Hasidic New Wave and the Billy Hart Group.
What makes him a musician in demand is the way his style can’t be referenced to other players. One of the shorthands of the music press is the way we compare one thing to another. It’s a way of suggesting a sound in print, an attempt to capture in black and white the texture of music we’ve heard. Sometimes this just isn’t possible. In the case of Fuze it has meant a steady career that has also managed to avoid much in the way of traditional commercial success and recognition. He says, “Even though my sound works for me it has often worked against me.” A simple philosophy has kept him on his true path though, “Play the tune now because you can’t take it with you.”
His latest project, TAO (as in Taoism, the philosophy of the 10,000 things and the unclouded mirror) is characteristically different than his earlier groups. “It’s still very groove oriented, it’s still the same concept of what I call a groove sandwich or groove sam-mich. Heavy fat grooves on the bottom, odd chords in the middle that you usually wouldn’t hear with these kinds of grooves or dance beats and then, in terms of Torsos, it was unusual singing or solos on top. With this it’s much more Eastern elements,” says David. “I’m playing a double neck guitar that’s fretless on top so I can get sarod sounds, I can imitate a sitar or a little bit of an oud. I can play the microtones in these Middle Eastern modes that I’m experimenting with. So, this is a big workshop for me right now in Middle Eastern and East Asian sounds.”
Joining him in this self-described “DIY thing” (the punk rock aesthetic is strong in Fuze’s approach) are two California rhythmatists. Bassist Kaveh Rastegar is a member of Action Figure Party and the fifty-piece Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra. Adrian Harpham has drummed with Leo Nocentelli (Meters), Coolio and on numerous soundtracks. Both players have spent time working up rhythms for members of the Pharcyde as well, which feeds in nicely with Fiuczynski’s interest in modern R&B sounds.
He expresses a small concern that some might think he’s making light of the Tao by naming a group after such a lofty concept. His intention was to push himself to strive for a higher place in the music. “I’m trying to make my sound bigger. I want to have fewer elements but more focus, more intense colors from each of the players. Ideally then the band turns into something bigger than the sum of the elements,” he said.
David Fiuczynski's TAO makes a quick run up the Cali Coast in November before taking this new group onto the Eastern seaboard for a tour in December.
Nov 11th – Knitting Factory West – Los Angeles
NOV 12th – Temple Bar – Santa Monica
NOV 13th – The Catalyst – Santa Cruz
NOV 14th – Peri's – Fairfax
NOV 15th – Boom Boom Room – San Francisco (w/Zony Mash)
NOV 16th – Boom Boom Room – San Francisco (w/Zony Mash)
JamBase Bay Area Correspondent
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