Six Sideways, Side by Side
I'll resist any pun that might connect the words "mushroom and "joint but more than a little psychedelica wafts like incense and patchouli through this collaboration between progressive rock and jazz veterans.
Mushroom is an more-or-less underground ensemble led by drummer Pat Thomas that has explored modern instrumental rock and jazz from its San Francisco base, including serving as support band for like-minded progressives Kevin Ayers (of Soft Machine) and Daevid Allen (of Gong), for the past decade. Here they collaborate with trumpet player Eddie Gale, also a veteran of progressive music but from the jazz realm, including work with Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor's landmark Unit Structures. "After we heard the reissues of Eddie's 1960's Blue Note LPs that blended jazz with gospel, folk and soul, like a hybrid of the Edwin Hawkins Singers and Sun Ra, says Thomas, "We knew that we had to meet this kindred spirit who was not afraid to blend a diverse set of styles and let them stew and percolate.
From beginning to end, this is some seriously whacked out shit. The opening "Peace floats in very free time, progressive synthesizer music before synthesizers went pop, a spacious backdrop for Gale's powerful, dramatic trumpet entrance. "Selling Oakland by the Pound continually builds then dissolves a piano / vibes / percussion crescendo beneath a title that honors one of Genesis' most fabled album titles.
You catch more than a whiff of jazz too. "I Was Torn Down at the Dance Place, Shaved Head at the Organ radiates a heavy groove out from its repeated throbbing bass line to build a spiritually intense framework for Gale's premier trumpet performance of the set, exploratory yet always close to this rhythmic and harmonic core - an electronic "Love Supreme for trumpet. The simple replacement of Gale's trumpet with Matt Gunitz' acoustic piano reshapes this sound into more of a progressive rock, sort of Traffic, jam.
Gale digs deep into his trumpet, down to the sound of 'bone, which brings out the sound and communal adventurous spirit (even if not quite the exact style) of New Orleans collective improvisation in "I Don't Need to Fight to Prove I'm Right, I Don't Need to Be Forgiven. As you soar with Gale's spacewalk through this tune's heady atmosphere, you can also look below and discover that Mushroom has evolved a new or at least rarely heard type of electronic and yet organic music.
Praxis is the operative name of an experimental jazz/rock/funk/dub quartet led by bassist Bill Lawell with drummer Brain (Les Claypool's Primus), guitarist Buckethead and keyboardist Bernie Worrell (wizard of synthesized funk for P-Funk, Talking Head and legions more) that first came to Frankenstein-like life in 1993: "Frankenstein-like because like that mad doctor Laswell stitches Praxis together from disparate parts of the contemporary music corpus and then animates it to sometimes powerful, sometimes hideous, life.
In 2004, Praxis hit the stage around midnight on the first night of Bonnaroo, the jam-band scene's annual music festival in Manchester, Tennessee, and unleashed this machine-gun torrent of weird, wired and angry sound. Keyboards and guitar combine to sound like hip-hop turntables scratching heavy metal in the opening "Verterbrae ; "Spun tears through more of the same, then congeals into the raging, barbed electric blues "Night of the Slunk, where Buckethead plays so many hot and fast notes that the music seems to blur as it whizzes past.
Buckethead's solo "Guitar Virus introduces a torrid run through one of Jimi Hendrix' most memorable funk-rock melodies and the high point of this set, "Machine Gun. Worrell and Buckethead double up and echo each other's screeds while Laswell and Brain churn up the underbody deep and black and nasty. "Bent Light resurrects post-punk minimalism, repeating a small guitar phrase with slight variations to build the melody and melodic tension, nearly a nod to the Robert Fripp school of intricate progressive guitar rock.
More open, more airy, "Optic creates more of a mood than music, a heady "dub Pink Floyd atmosphere that will most likely conjure up to those familiar with it echoes of Laswell's dub project with manipulated Miles Davis recordings (Panthalassa). "Magus brings down the curtain with a wildly progressive jam in some spacey, impossible-sounding time, electrified by Laswell's raging bass, "jazz-rock if by "rock you mean "Motorhead and by "jazz you mean "Jamaaladeen Tacuma.
Praxis got over. Jambase magazine simply said of their set: "This is the glory of Bonnaroo.
Anoushka Shankar and Karsh Kale
Breathing Under Water