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Often, when a jazz artist goes old-school, the style emulates some traditional mode, be it big band, swing or piano-led trio. However, old-school can also apply to fusion. That's where bassist Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion come in.
Goods has the distinction of being the youngest person ever inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of Fame. His associations include the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, Mulgrew Miller, Russell Malone, The Manhattan Transfer, Stanley Turrentine and pop acts like DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera. Nuclear Fusion is comprised of Goods on bass, Helen Sung on keyboards, Mike Clark on drums and Jeff Lockhart on guitar. Live at the Zinc Bar features the unit in Goods' first recording as a leader, recorded in New York.
After a free-spirited introduction, a familiar melody emerges. Wayne Shorter's "Elegant People" is given a balanced treatment; while performed in similar style to the Weather Report version, the delivery is different. The highlight is Sung's keyboards playa touch of Joe Zawinul meets Hiromi Uehara. Throughout, Goods, Lockhart and Clark jam with intensity and the band is tight. Sung enjoys an extended solo that's all her own, while the background rhythm maintains the beat that identifies the song.
Goods solos on the ethereal "Desert Song intro," leading into "Desert Song," one of only two original songs (a longer version ends the set). Sung is out front, but Goods and Clark are very strong, with Lockhart's presence also felt, but more subtly. Sung's intense solo is on par with classic fusion efforts by the likes of Joe Sample, Chick Corea and Zawinul.
"King Jaffe Joffer," the other original, begins with Clark performing a march. When the other instruments come in, the song takes on an adventurous feel. Though Sung carries the melody, Goods seems to be as dominant. As is often the case with fusion, each musician seems to be in a different zone, yet still connected with one another. During a soft passage, Goods leads; Lockhart also solos.
In addition to "Elegant People," the group also covers songs by Lenny White, Antonio Newman and two by Herbie Hancock. Still, it doesn't sound like a covers album. That makes the difference between simply performing songs they love and doing something interesting with them. Live at the Zinc Bar is a powerful debut for Goods.
Track Listing: Elegant People; Sorceress; Desert Song intro; Desert Song; Snake Oil; King Jaffe Joffer; Sly;
Palm Grease; Desert Song (long version).
Personnel: Richie Goods: bass; Helen Sung: keyboards; Mike Clark: drums; Jeff Lockhart: guitar.