John Funkhouser: Still (2013)
With the unpredictable sensibility and graceful prowess of a cat, John Funkhouser and his core trio draw the listener into Still, an intelligent and poignant collection of alluring tracks that display an inner sense of musical exploration and innovation. Funkhouser is masterful as both a musician and composer/arranger, maintaining a delicate balance of power and agility with an instinctive musical sense to pull back and allow his fellow musicians to explore their musical ideas. It is as if all of the musicians performing on this release are engaged in a quick-witted and yet a profound and thoughtful musical discourse, completely absorbing the listener in the process.
Located in the Boston area, Funkhouser is recognized throughout the region as an accomplished and credentialed pianist and bassist. In addition to teaching at the Berklee College of Music, he has honed his craft and earned a solid reputation performing throughout the northeastern states with a plethora of jazz artists. In Still, he draws upon his interests in a wide range of musical styles to creat an insightful and inventive collection of tracks with the members of his core trio, Greg Loughman on bass and Mike Connors on drums. Both Loughman and Connors are impressive in their abilities to intuitively build upon and add layers to the musical infrastructure in each of the pieces in Still. Guitarist Phil Sargent and vocalist Aubrey Johnson appear on a select few of the tracks. Although their appearances are brief, their contributions are essential to the totality of Still as a cohesive and melodious work or art.
Still opens "Indigo Montoya's Great Escape," a playful and schizophrenic tune inspired by Funkhouser's cat. The trio quickly establishes their prowess as a disciplined and incisive force, pushing and daring one another to explore new and deeper levels of expression in each track. A standout selection is "The Deep," which features both Sargent's guitar and Johnson's vocals. Haunting and atmospheric, the improvisational display between each of these musicians is captivating, and one can sense the respect between these musicians throughout this pieceno one tries to steal the show as everyone seems to understand the "sum" of this special song piece is greater than the individuals contributing to its creation.
With a sense of fun and surprise, Funkhouser also includes his interpretations of the traditional "House of the Rising Sun" and "Little Rootie Tootie" by Thelonious Monk. Although taking on a Monk tune is a daunting task for any pianist, Funkhouser manages to show respect for the original yet put his own personal stamp on the piece, which is very enjoyable indeed.
The Boston area is certainly fortunate to have a cat like Funkhouser as a member of its jazz scene, and the rest of us are fortunate that Funkhouser is able to share his talent and jazz sensibility with us in Still.
Track Listing: Indigo Montoya's Great Escape; House of the Rising Sun; The Deep; My Romance; Little Rootie Tootie; Leda; Shakedown; Still.
Personnel: John Funkhouser: piano; Greg Loughman: bass; Mike Connors: drums; Phil Sargent: guitar (3,5,8); Aubrey Johnson: voice (3,6).
Record Label: Jazsyzygy Records
Style: Modern Jazz