Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ro Sham Beaux RPR 2012

Genres are a necessity in music. First and foremost record companies needed a way to categorize and or market their product so some sort of arbitrary label identifying the artist and their sound was needed simply as a matter of convenience. The sub-genre is the root of all evil. In the hands of the less experienced critic and even less knowledgeable record executive the sub-genre can turn as incendiary as any political argument found on face book these days. Ro Sham Beaux is a Boston based band that doubles as a jazzy indie rock combo, an alternative indie jazz retro fusion band, a post modern funk band with improvisational chops galore - there is no wrong answer. Paralysis by analysis is part of the problem in jazz today. Another branch on the jazz sub genre family tree is something no one needs.

This formidable 4tet with an ear for the groove and the soul for the where and how the groove needs to go forth may best be narrowed down to a loose post bop instrumental indie rock vibe that is retro fusion made cool again. Musical chemistry and ensemble interplay weave a sonic spell as their are harmonic and dynamic shifts not to mention textural variety and the obvious common denominator is simply the unabashed joy that emanates from making music together. Make no mistake, Ro Sham Beaux like any good artist or artistic ensemble is a continual work in progress.

A dark and moody riff on Bjork's "Joga" plays with the lyrical intensity not to mention the harmonic development of a tune that as an original is seemingly all over the place. Ro Sham Beaux is able to bring in the intensity of the original and redirect the lyrical flow with a much needed sense of direction and sonic minimalism. "Dreamulator" is an adventurous Afro-Brazilian groove showcasing not only the bands vast repertoire but the ability to pull off virtually any genre with relative ease and authenticity. More than the traditional band, Ro Sham Beaux is closer to an artistic collective as they have the more traditional working band feel and display the same subtle nuances that many of the better 4tets have long been known for. Organized chaos built around sonic fury and a musical lexicon of tunes and styles developed out of necessity more so than for artistic showmanship. "High Society" is a slightly more wistful if not melancholy ballad where Zac Shaiman's saxophone shines before the dynamics begin to soar behind the intensity of Jacob Cole behind the drum kit and Luke Marantz on keyboards. A distinct ebb and flow or song within a song. "Bearblade" may be one of the better tunes on the release which would the equivalent of asking a parent to pick their favorite child. Infectious hooks and an organic melodic development held together by bassist Oliver Watkinson set the musical table for the feast that follows and creates an ambiance of excitement and adventure long missing from the tired and more mundane work that some artists insist on rehashing as their "new release." Entertaining, artistic, part of the new evolution for modern jazz. A superb release with a lasting shelf life! Preview for yourself:

Tracks: Bearblade; Slave To The Cube; Keut Str8 Boiz; Town; Soul Crusher; Tejas Drive; Meatballs Are The Way To A Woman's Heart; Joga; Dreamulator; High Society; Anthem.

Personnel: Zac Shaiman: saxophones & effects; Luke Marantz: keyboard; Oliver Watkinson: bass; Jacob Cole: drums & glockenspiel.