Gary Willis / Llibert Fortuny / Kirk Covington: Slaughterhouse 3 (2007)
Anyone familiar with electric bassist Gary Willis (co-founder of the powerhouse fusion outfit Tribal Tech) and drummer Kirk Covington (a longtime member of that same group) will know that any saxophone trio they're involved with will be far removed from convention. Add saxophonist Llibert Fortuny, a rising star on the Spanish jazz scene, and the result is Slaughterhouse 3, an energized, take-no-prisoners album that, with its combination of potent grooves, wild electronics and freewheeling improvisation, will appeal equally to fans of fusion, jam-bands and electronica.
Virtuosity is a given. What separates the men from the boys here is how, on these eleven spontaneous compositions ranging from brief miniatures to lengthy, episodic interactions; unequivocal technical skill is used in search of a group aesthetic rather than individual talent. That said, Fortuny is a real revelation. Strip him of the sometimes copious processing and he'd still remain an inventive player. His significantly altered horn, on tracks like the high velocity "Let's Go, demonstrates a broad vernacular that would be equally comfortable in a post-bop or acoustic free jazz setting.
Like Tribal Tech, the amount of processing taking place here makes it sometimes challenging to know who's doing what. Still, on the relatively pure "Moof, Willis' fretless bass evokes memories of Jaco Pastorius while, with its denser sound, remaining distinctly personal. Covington, on the same track, demonstrates a loose sense of swing and delicate touch that may come as a surprise to those familiar with his higher energy Tribal Tech workthat is, until the last minute when he kicks the energy up with a more powerful delivery.
With a rhythm section as potent as Willis and Covington there's no question that visceral funk will be part of the equation, as heard on the greasy "Stinky and up-tempo "Booty Duty, is well, undeniably booty-shaking. The title track is considerably more intense, with Fortuny's distorted horn approaching the kind of wailing, feedback-driven intensity normally reserved for guitarists.
But while gritty energy and samplesbeats and otherwiseare a part of this hour-long excursion into modern improvisation, the trio also demonstrates a more expansive and orchestral side. "Another Chance comes at about the half-way point, and provides an almost ambient respite from the power surrounding it. It's also surprisingly lyrical, with Covington's brushwork and Willis' fretless creating a soft underpinning for Fortuny's sparer melodicism.
Fusion may usually be the purview of guitarists and keyboardists, but Slaughterhouse 3 makes it clear that even the chord-less saxophone trio can, in the right hands, be an equally dynamic alternative. Texturally rich, rhythm-heavy and completely committed, Slaughterhouse 3 is a welcome debut by a trio that, hopefully, will be more than just a one-off affair.
Track Listing: Slaughterhouse 3; Life's Story; Let's Go; Toxic; Booty Duty; Another Chance; Trapeze/Nobody's Friend; Stinky; Sleep Deprivation; Moof; Interactive Show.
Personnel: Gary Willis: bass; Llibert Fortuny: saxophone; Kirk Covington: drums.