There was something wrong with jazz-fusion of the 1970s and 80s. You could just instinctively feel it. But what was missing? After Miles Davis ushered in electric instruments (or was it the electrocution of jazz?) with Bitches Brew
, the doors flew open to all sorts of characters. There was the electric violin of John Luc Ponty, Stanley Clark’s thundering jazz-funk bass, and even an electric saxophone played by Eddie Harris. Jazz had become what rock made readily apparent, talent and musicianship become less important than glitter and crowd-pleasing flash. The showmanship of jazz ‘bar-walking’ was back in the form described in rock as ‘guitar face,’ where a pained expression of intensity substituted for actual creative music. Rock audiences weaned on Jimi Hendrix playing from his knees, now expected the same of their jazz musicians. Remnants of guitar face can be found in jazz today, labeled ‘lite,’ or ‘smooth’ jazz, just look for slick hairstyles and posing, lots of posing.
All that is electric in jazz is not evil. Wayne Horvitz & Zony Mash, Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, Medeski, Martin & Wood, and Steve Coleman’s post M-BASE come to mind. So does this little known (hopefully not for long) trio known as Boundary Issues. Made up of the rhythm section of the collective band The Tone Sharks, BI plays jazz-fusion. Correction, their jazz fusion is an amalgam of electricity and spontaneous composition. Noise this ain’t. The band, well versed in modern music, delivers freshness in sound, sans cliches and I suspect sans guitar face. Their electric bass/guitar/drum, more suited to garage rock than jazz, opts for subtlety over noise. In the center is drummer Dave Storrs, an accent-oriented rhythm master that colors rather than beats, utilizing cymbals over toms. Bassist Page Hundemer’s playing resurrects the sound of Jaco Pastorious but with less showmanship, more intelligence. Guitarist Steve Willis conjures the world of electric Miles, the blues of James Blood Ulmer, and a little Sonny Sharrock tossed in there for meat.
The closest comparison to this trio is the now defunct Splatter Trio. Both bands treat improvised, spontaneous creation as an opportunity to make music, not noise. Comfortable enough with each other, the music grooves. This is street jazz. Appealing enough on a first glance, it’s accessible. But there’s also the aspect of spontaneity here that makes this rewarding for connoisseurs of creative jazz at the highest level. Louie Records: www.peak.org/~louierec
Track List:Let’s Not Say We Did; Marvin’s Garden; I Heard It Differently; Get After; T.G.T.; So, You Going To School; Disturber (And Built To Sty That Way); Mountains In My Dreams; I Hear Bells; We’ll Dance With Anyone.