Fusion seems to me a phrase that's passed it's worth due to the enormous amount of acts out there that appeal to various demographics and open the doors to different styles from pop to funk to rock and onward. However, gutbucket's self description of "jazz/punk kerzoom!" was enticing because it not only portrays a band bringing together two genres that are seldomly melded but creates a third, abstract way of self reference that simply brings to mind fun and excitement which is purely evident as saxophonist Ken Thomson bops around the stage playing wild arrangments that enhance what his partners are doing and provides a looping string on which you can ride with him all night.

Playing every Friday through 2001 at the Knitting Factory Tap Bar, with three sets from 11pm to 2am, there's ample room for them to keep you going in what turns to after hours for most people. Unlike the main stage at the Factory, the Tap Bar is free and much more like other locations where live music can be found in Manhattan that trend towards bar than music venue (one of my personal favorites being the Evelyn Lounge on the Upper West Side which is about much more than yuppies and cigars). When the music starts, the lights stay at full brightness and the buzz in the room barely abates but that shouldn't prevent you from getting into their extended kicks filled with punkish feedback, out there jazz and improvisations which mix in a bit of Latin and hip hop with drummer Paul Chuffo showing his abilities to beat on those skins and then slide into the background work while bassist Eric Rockwin and guitarist Ty Citerman go from ambient to dominant, adding the rocket like trajectories of hot jazz while unafraid to hang back and then jump in again when the openness of their more exploratory tunes is the game.

Their compositions range from less tangible guitar feeds with the drums leaving a popcorn trail for you to follow them back into chest heaving beats that are quickly complimented by the sax to noise driven progressive jazz. They spread it out widely but then pulse back and forth at times like the up and down motion of a trampoline with the same sense of giddiness that belies their gripping sense of humor. So what if the banner keeps falling down, it can be a shawl, a carpet, a pseudo-pinata or a twirling flag which bolsters the fun instead of acting as a distraction in the lead ins to songs like one which was called, I think, AAAAH!! which embodies their sense of absurdity and randomness as well as the hard core nature derived from their punk influences. But it's not always rough and tumble. gutbucket also shows finesse throughout their sets, tip toeing and carefully darting around the house with the pleasure of curiosity.

Ending my evening with them, they came out with a tune called Dry Humping the American Dream which was the most ambitiously composed song of the night's repertoire. Starting off with a bit of jazz, they took it into a punkier area where the bass could ominously trance you before they headed into an extended latin bit, swinging back into another succession of those changing styles in the same order, skipping a similar third round by moving harder and then weaving in a slide groove which turned fluidly into some frenetically speedy jazz until the big latin finish.

On the way out, I had a chance to meet a couple of the gutbucket guys and left with a smile that such stimulating music was provided me by genuinely nice people. They'll be at the Knitting Factory Tap Bar for the rest of the year so you'll have a few more chances to check them out there and, hopefully, they'll be announcing more gigs in the year to come.

[Published on: 11/30/00]

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