The firestorm of invention that was jazz-rock fusion music of the Seventies resonates today in the music of Burlington Vermont’s innovative trio Badsuit. This trio sounds a resounding charge for the genre in an already vibrant music scene, slowly but surely making a place for themselves and promising to widen their prominence—not to mention their audience-- the longer they play.
Badsuit are not novices by any means though. The group, consisting of Tim Sharbaugh on drums and percussion, Kevin Stevens on guitars and Alex Budney on basses, coalesced from the remains of fusion forebears The Perfect Sandwich. That band itself the descendant of the Queen City fusion music legend Chakrabarty Overdrive, invited the chemistry now in play between Sharbaugh, Stevens and Budney whose range of roots are broad enough to include the logical influences (Return to Forever, Jeff Beck and Billy Cobham) as well as those that lend a genuinely earthy element (Parliament and James Brown) to a style of music all too intellectual at times in its history.
Within this eclectic mix, Badsuit manage to avoid the pitfalls of pretension and self-indulgence in pure technique that plagued fusion at its pinnacle. We can only hope more recordings, in more configurations, are disseminated soon, but in the meantime,
Samples of their closely-bonded musicianship available on the web (http://www.myspace.com/badsuit display the virtues intrinsic to the aforementioned chemistry of the threesome.
Sharbaugh, Stevens and Budney move through the airy melody “Sometime” by a rhythm that alternates in time out of time and from instrument to instrument. Each of these men is of a single mind as well as his own.
Similarly, the deliberate pace of “Wrong Way Gone” allows Badsuit to interact instrumentally as if in a ballet. This track in and of itself confirms the distinct impression that, as schooled as these three are in the art of fusion past, they no long owe a debt to the likes of Herbie Hancock or Chick Corea.
“Inside Out” find Badsuit collectively fleet afoot, the arrangement further showcasing a band of consummate professionals. Stevens, Budney and Sharbaugh respect each other and the music, displaying both empathy and authority in equal measure.
Badsuit’s ambition is as resolute as their musicianship is vibrant. Accordingly, they have the courage to cover “Achilles Last Stand.” one of the most distinct entries in the Led Zeppelin discography; Budney, Sharbaugh and Stevens have clearly mastered the quick changes in the composition and navigate them so adeptly they create a challenge for themselves as well as their listeners.
The experience is an altogether joyous one, not the academic likes of fusion era in its prime where lessons in complexity robbed the music and its musicians—and by extension their listeners-- of all heart. On the contrary, Badsuit reach for those musical heights that illustrate, in no uncertain term, how great is the art of music and how inclusive that experience can be.
Doug Collette has written about rock and roll, jazz and the blues for over twenty five years. He is a regular columnist and contributor to State of Mind Music in print and on-line (www.stateofmindmusic.com) and is also a senior reviewer and columnist for the internet resource All About Jazz (www.allaboutjazz.com). You can visit DC's own site on the web at www.myspace.com/backitupontheweb