First Appeared at The Music Box, March 2001, Volume 8, #3
by John Metzger
Midway through El Búho’s recent release Wham Bam Boodle 2000, there is a song titled Always with You. The track begins with the gentle ebb of synthesized strings before the slap of a drum beat and a gritty guitar lead jump-start the tune. And then comes the fleugelhorn -- softly flowing, drifting effortlessly over the rhythm. The Wild Blue Yonder follows as saxophone, keyboards, and trumpet play in tandem over a driving, uplifting groove before the song slides into a wide open jam session.
Taken in total, El Búho, which is the brainchild of horn player Gary Gazaway, falls somewhere between the experimental jazz of Miles Davis’ masterpieces Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way, the rock ’n‘ roll-fueled fusion of Maynard Ferguson’s mid-’70s work, and a touch of Pat Metheny’s graceful finesse. At its heart, Wham Bam Boodle 2000 is unquestionably a jazz album, though it features guest appearances from jam band veterans Col. Bruce Hampton, Phish’s Mike Gordon, and Flecktone Victor Wooten. Given this, it’s not surprising to learn that the group is being marketed to jam band fans, much like Medeski, Martin & Wood have been showcased. Quite frankly, El Búho is better -- that is whenever they stick with a jazz format and don’t dive too far into the trappings of jam band hell. Fortunately, these moments are the exception rather than the rule and are limited exclusively to the title track. Here, guest vocalist Hampton gives a rather mediocre performance that sounds woefully out of place with the rest of the disc. Yet, it’s hard not to tap your toes to the underlying rhythm, and if this is what it takes for El Búho to reach a wider audience, it’s easy to forgive them -- especially since the rest of the album is packed with blissful melodies and true improvisation.
The Music Box
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