Monday, May 19, 2014

Instrusaurus. Instrusaurus.

Instrusaurus.  Instrusaurus.
Silvercloud Records, 2013.  Instrusaurus:

In a week when Godzilla has just premiered it seems appropriate to consider another monster.  But this one was not the result of radiation; it’s rather more the kind that’s cobbled together out of parts.  A Northeast Ohio supergroup of sorts (if you don’t recognize the names, look them up), this one is made out of jazz, blues, and rock musicians who have come together to create an instrumental band that surfs among the waves of all three.  I use the surf analogy deliberately, since the first tune up is “Pipeline,” the old hit for the Chantays back in 1962.  Some of these guys have long memories.  Regardless, this is one good-lookin’ monster.

Their music reminds me simultaneously of Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Ramsey Lewis, King Curtis, and every other 60s band that had instrumental hits with infectious grooves that couldn’t be pigeonholed or ignored despite British invasions and other musical upheavals.  These guys have grabbed “Green Onions,” “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and “Watermelon Man” among others, rearranged them for this group, and continued the honored groove.  This is dangerous business, since those of us who grew up with these tunes can't help but compare them to the originals. You'd better not mess with "Green Onions." It's a permanent part of my musical makeup. But they did okay, slowed it a little but gave it a good ride. It’s hard to come up with standouts, since all the tunes are great ones, but let me pick out some moments that I love:  Todd Sharp’s guitar on “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Pipeline” (and everywhere else), Dave Thomas’ organ on “Green Onions” and “Soul Serenade,” Sean Jones’ trumpet on “Can’t Find My Way Home,”  Bobby Selvaggio’s sax on “Soul Serenade,” Shea Pierre’s piano and Paul Christensen’s sax on “Mind if I Smoke?”  I’ll stop there, but I could go on.  The solos are great, but when they all hit at once is when things really get crazy.  Rapidfire solos combined with solid togetherness on “Don’t Lose Your Cool” and “Don’t Cry No More” speak volumes about how much these guys love what they’re doing and how they do it so well.  

I credited arrangements and production down below, because Ashby is an Oberlin guy, and Peters and Silverman were both members of the James Gang.  It’s hard to get more iconic than that.  Excellent work all around.  Members of Intsrusaurus have been doing a series of concerts in the area this weekend.  I hope they can be enticed to do a few more.

Personnel:  Todd Sharp (electric, acoustic & baritone guitars), Jamey Haddad (drums, percussion), Sean Jones (trumpet, flugelhorn), Joe Miller (trumpet), Jeff Ciampa (bass), Shea Pierre (piano, keyboard), Howard Levy (harmonica), Johnny Cochran, Jr. (baritone and tenor sax), Dave Thomas (Hammond organ), Larry Galloway (trombone), Paul Christensen (sax), Bobby Selvaggio (alto sax, arrangements), Jay Ashby (arrangements), Dale Peters (recording engineer, mixer), Ronnie Silverman (producer).
Tracks:  Pipeline, Sen Sa Shun, Green Onions, Can’t Find My Way Home, Watermelon Man, Mind if I Smoke?, Soul Serenade, Hard Way, Don’t Lose Your Cool, Dimming of the Day.

The Grand Wazoo

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