Naked Truth: Ouroboros (2012)
With apologies to the late guitarist Pete Cosey (who led a band by the name), the members of Naked Truth are bona fide "children of Agharta." That is, the groupled by bassist-guitarist Lorenzo Feliciatihas absorbed and adapted the lessons of trumpeter Miles Davis's exhausting, tectonic live recording Agharta (Columbia, 1975) so well that Davis' disc can be revisited with fresh ears and new appreciation.
What does it mean to be children of Agharta? The brooding Ouroboros would not be mistaken for Davis' record in any blindfold test. Nor is it likely that Naked Truth has consciously imitated its trumpet-playing forebear. No, Naked Truth's inheritance is heard in an exacting, demanding and innovative approach to group interaction that the quartet shares with its poorly understood progenitor. For starters, here are three characteristics from Agharta that Naked Truth makes its own:
- First, the compositions and performances on Ouroboros are forward- moving and horizontally organized, like the modal jazz of Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) or the radical funk of James Brown (both inputs to the Agharta sound). In this way they differ from the cyclical approach of a 32-bar standard, vertically organized around overlaid harmonies.
- Second, the sonic palette is a miasma of sounds not easily attributed to any particular instrument. Davis explicitly wanted to confuse critics regarding just who was playing what; more seriously, he sought to eliminate all "European" elements from the music. While there is ingenious and considered playing in abundance here, there are few clearly delineated instrumental solos. Moreover, there are buzzing, whirring electronic effects throughout (presumably provided mostly by keyboardist Roy Powell), in the interstices of electronic cornet, keyboards, guitars and percussion. These electronic textures, interacting with prominent rhythm, are the centerpiece of the aural experience.
- Finally, there is the pile-driving bass and guitar sounds, echoing the earth-shattering playing of Agharta bassist Michael Henderson; here, that role is played by leader Feliciati. Thistogether with drummer Pat Mastelotto's Jack DeJohnette-like insistence, weaves rock 'n' roll and funk into every piece, more coherently and successfully than on the band's Shizaru (RareNoise, 2011).
Trumpeter Graham Haynes, a prominent player in adventurous (and often electrified) jazz since his emergence in the fertile Brooklyn m-Base scene in the 1980s, is a newcomer to Naked Truth. The trumpet chair was previously filled by Cuong Vu, whose own Vu-tet sound is a close cousin to Naked Truth's, and Norwegian Nils Petter Molvaer. Haynes's playing is warm, human and singing amidst the electronic maelstrom.
The clarity and intelligence behind Ouroboros marks a real advance relative to Naked Truth's previous work. But it also creates a backward link to a Miles Davis classic in a way that shines a light on a hitherto undetected family tree, back through lots of electronica and metal, by way of Weather Report and the Headhunters, to the lost continent of Agharta.
Track Listing: Dust; Dancing With The Demons Of Reality; Garden Ghosts; Orange; Right of Nightly Passage; Yang Ming Has Passed; In A Dead End With Joe; Neither I.
Personnel: Graham Haynes: electric cornet, trumpet; Roy Powell: Hammond B3, Fender Rhodes, prepared piano; Lorenzo Feliciati: electric bass, electric guitars; Pat Mastelotto: acoustic and electronic drums, percussion.
Record Label: RareNoiseRecords