Banyan's musical experiment pulls from the past and pushes into the future. Drummer Stephen Perkins keeps this side project alive and vibrant with an all-star ensemble of Mike Watt (bass), Nels Cline (guitar) and Willie Waldman (trumpet). Their latest release, Live at Perkin's Place, effectively fuses instrumental jazz with experimental rock that treads into some weird places but certainly doesn't get lost along the way. While the album's title is a bit of a misnomer since the recording was done in a studio, the collective experience and creativity of the players shine in some confident, bold and energetic music.

The compositions vary from thoughtfully orchestrated jams to more wide open soundscapes. The band musters enough control over the chaos to give the listener some intriguing sketches to absorb. Perkins' percussive work along with music elder, Mike Watt's basslines, build liquid rhythms that alternate between driving rain and rolling waves. In trying to decipher the band's inspiration it's worthwhile to remember their musical legacy, Perkin's of Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros; Watt of the Minutemen and fIREHOSE. In a way, this project is a legacy of the Los Angeles underground music scene of the 80's and 90's that these men helped shape. The fact that they are treading in different musical territories makes their latest incarnation even more remarkable.

Willie Waldman's trumpet evokes Miles Davis' Dark Magus on more than few tracks and helps build spaced-out sentimental moods as well as bright flamenco melodies. Equally unique guitar contributions from Nels Cline craft effect-laden atmospheres that would make Robert Fripp proud. On tracks like "Only You Would Know" and "El Sexxo," Perkin's syncopation with various percussion instruments provides a perfect framework for Waldman's and Cline's soaring melodies. Perkins drives some songs to an economical conclusion ("Mad as a Hornet," "A Million Little Laughs") while letting others ("King of Long Beach") percolate into some truly unique explorations.

A release definitely worth checking out, Live at Perkin's Place is thoughtful, sometimes frenetic music that's sure to inspire your own creative energy.

Haig Assadourian
JamBase | Colorado
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[Published on: 12/14/04]

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