Modereko: Solar Igniter (2004)
One of the world’s premier “Grooverockjamjazz” bands, the Modereko quintet consists of co-founders John Molo (drums, loops, vocals) and Bobby Read (saxophones, flute, clarinet) with JT Thomas (keyboards), Dan Conway (bass), and Tim Kobza (guitar). Their collective roots are in instrumental rock of high quality (Blue Thumb, an imprint of the hallowed Verve jazz label, released their eponymous debut) and colorful variety: Thomas and Read also play with pianist Bruce Hornsby, while Molo was Hornsby’s original drummer and more recently tour drummer for Phil Lesh & Friends.
There’s just so much music here. That means more than there are a lot of songs: There’s a lot of music stuffed into each song, mixing in with casual precision goofy pop culture references, and an amazing amount of this music is quite good. Several titles reflect this joyous, almost comedic, celebration of pop culture, such as “El Kabong” and the jellyfish jam “Allman Joy,” as soft and sweet as a Georgia peach.
This follow up divides neatly (almost) into instrumentals and songs with vocals. The opener “Seven Heaven” is by far the best track with vocals, as guitar and saxophone wobble and strut against a horny backbeat that moans and groans with heavy gospel overtones. Eddie Harris could have dug into this funk with Les McCann around the time of Swiss Movement.
The title track stands among the best instrumentals, as Modereko continually adds and subtracts small phrases to its intricate melody like building then remodeling a Lego® house one piece at a time. In a more funky bag, “El Kabong” gets poked along by barbed horns, guitar, and organ, sounding like Booker T & The MGs sharing coffee with Herbie Mann over a Steely Dan instrumental. In “Miracles,” another old-school shuffle energized by sharp rhythm guitars and James Brown-y basslines, the ensemble playing rocks as powerful and sharp as a vintage Stax/Volt instrumental, complete with juke-joint-jumpin’ sax, guitar, and organ breakouts.
Track Listing: Seven Heaven; El Kabong; Getaway Float; Huckleberry; Take It Out; 35 Rooms; Travel by Balloon; Tronic; Solar Igniter; Snake Charmer; Miracles; Allman Joy; Soul Cheese; Celebrate Your Youth
Personnel: John d'Earth: sampling; Tim Kobza: bass, guitar, vocals; John Molo: percussion, drums, loops, vocals; Danny Conway: bass; Bobby Read: clarinet, saxophones, flute, keyboards, vocals; J. Collier: bass; JT Thomas: organ, keyboards; Zac Ray: keyboards; Keller Williams: vocals