groove jazz, acid jazz... the devil goes by many names and guises and there
seems to be a never-ending supply of musicians willing to do his bidding. Some
might say too many musicians, which makes finding the ones that are actually
worth digesting difficult. On their new release Vessel, Modern
Groove Syndicate has all the ingredients for a tasty cake full of boogie
and delivers the entire dessert cart for good measure. The album seems to hit
every subgenre imaginable, mixing in a variety of influences to good effect
like offbeat add-ins in a new Ben & Jerry's pint. Let's see... there's straight
guitar-organ-sax funk, straight grooving Wurlitzer, straight jazz piano on top
of greasy pork rind bass lines, syrupy smooth soprano saxophone on top of standard
funk beats, dancing melodies on top of near-techno drumming, etc., etc. etc.
But instead of letting the influences overwhelm, the Syndicate simply brushes
them on for a light dusting of flavor--a hint of the past and present while
giving their version of the future.
Vessel is in the category of CD that you'll hear in
a bar or at a party and after not fully paying attention for the first three
tracks you'll suddenly feel the urge to blurt out "Who is this!?!?" Your body
just moves. Which isn't to say this is the best shit ever... just that it's
better than a lot of the other shit out there. Indeed the disc seems to hit
a lull about halfway through, but recovers admirably with a final stretch that
includes some heavy grooves and some nice surprises. So often an already pigeonholed
band of this nature will try to overcome today's blandness in funk by overthinking
and overwriting their music until it becomes overwrought with spontaneous and
too-abrupt changes. The result is completely nauseating. Modern Groove Syndicate
has found a way to bring a fresh voice to a stale genre with really smart composition
and really smart grooves that won't be denied. Sometimes it's the little things:
my favorite track is the disc's finale where a string section magically appears
mid-stream and adds perfect embellishment to the tune. Just goes to show that
these guys know what's what from top to bottom.
File between the 20th
congress and Galactic.