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Extended Analysis

Steve Jenkins: Mad Science

By Published: August 30, 2004
Steve Jenkins
Mad Science

The kids are alright! Want to hear the damn bassplaya play ? Look no further than this year's outstanding offering from D.C./Beantown's five-string-Modulus-toting bad boy Steve Jenkins. While the mainstream has grown some downright dubious mutations from its most recent influences (say, Britney or Cristina out of Madonna and Mariah) jazz's subgenres continue to steadily evolve splendid successors from their Jedi training camps. Today's down-low Yodas of the electric bass like Garrison , Willis , Sverisson and Burbridge have begun to instigate Skywalkers like Steve Jenkins.

Speaking of Jedi, Steve coaxed Dave Fiuczynski to bring along his double-necked light saber on two incendiary performances. "Watch Where you Point that Thing" is a funk riff workout, with Jenk adding a particularly awe-inspiring fill about 30 seconds in. The spacey Hendrixian rhythm work that follows shouldn't be taken lightly, because no guitarist in any genre has so crystallized this out-of -phase sound as Fuze. One track yields that trademarked trippy vibe, but give him two and dig the resultant nirvana. The slashing legato that follows is not only notable for harmonic complexity, ideas per square second and unmitigated velocity, but for the fact it is executed flawlessly on the fretless neck of his rapier. Will the other guitarist on the planet that can produce these sounds please come forward! Jenk steps up with a string of 16th notes punctuated by clusters of double time, abetted by formidable right hand, multi-digit technique. His linear solo style displays a sensitivity to changing up phraseology that continues to elude some very highly regarded players.

The psychefunkadelica of "Thought Police" incorporates a palmed and muted bass groove to create a gaping, behind-the-beat pocket for Fuze to slide into with tons of swelled fretless vibrato and an ominous, trembling, descending chord progression. The spacious melody leaves plenty of room for Fuze's microtonal maneuverings .

"Zeta Reticuli" features some cats from Boston funksters Lettuce : Jeff Bhasker on keys, Sam Kininger (also of Soulive) on alto, and (Sco's) Adam Deitch on ever-intensifying drums. Bhasker, especially, surprises by following Kininger's concentrated, escalating vamp-based riffing and Jenkins' Marcus-on-crystal-meth slap break with a "guitar" solo chocked shockingly full of acid bendology. "Orange" is Bhasker's thrilling Headhunters homage, featuring an elongated lyrical solo by Jenkins, giving way to vintage Rhodes sounds and phraseology by the keyboardist, who autographs the tune with a perfectly executed 70's synth tag. Taken together with the stunningly accurate Herbieisms on the cover of "Actual Proof," these performances also signal Bhasker's arrival..

The contemplative, bass chord atmosphere, "Merkaba," and the interesting interludes, like the self-duet on the beat-bending "Stagger" not only balance the set, but present highly evolved techniques in the context of the assorted moods comprising Jenkins' musical persona. Just the right measure of restraint and rip, mixed with homage and innovation, coalesce to make this the electric bass debut of (2003, when I first heard a demo and into) 2004.

Visit Steve Jenkins on the web at .

Track listing: 1.Merkaba, 2.Zeta Reticuli, 3.Weapons of Mass Deception, 4.Thought Police, 5.Stagger, 6.Watch Where You Point That Thing, 7.1972, 8.Orange, 9.Space_line, 10. Actual Proof

Personnel: Steve Jenkins-Modulus 5-string bass, (Fender Jazz on 2), Tony Escapa- drums and percussion (1), Dan Brantigan-trumpet (1,3), Jeff Bhasker-Rhodes, Moog, and other Keyboards (2,8, 9,10), Adam Deitch-drums (2,3,9,10), Sam kininger-alto saxophone (3), David Fiuczynski-guitar(4,6) Charles Haynes-drums (4,6), DJ Reazon-turntables,samples (8)

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