Since the group's meeting at the Oberlin Conservatory in 1991, Transcendental Psychology has undergone a series of evolutionary reincarnations. After moving to New York and losing their vocalist, the group has settled down long enough to make their first record. The eponymous Transcendental Psychology
embraces the spirit of improvisation within contexts of funk, rock, soul jazz, and hip-hop.
As a fusion of styles, this record works wonderfully. The secret is an unrelenting emphasis on the groove, whatever the context. For the most part, the harmonic backdrop for these pieces remains rather static, so there isn't much of the usual tonal evolution associated with jazz. But the instrumental performances here retain elements of swing and momentum that continually refresh the beat.
Guitarist Chris Lockett leads the group, in formal as well as functional senses. His limber work on the guitar (plus keyboards, and a fine but limited helping of oud) helps provide a colorful backdrop for the other players... when he's not twisting and writhing through his own solos. Groove bands these days tend to suffer from excessive reliance on funk and rock cliches from the '70s, but Transcendental Psychology makes a regular effort to keep it fresh. The inclusion of percussionist Bernardo Gajano helps a lot here: his efforts to color the rhythms assembled by drummer F. Carter Hoodless helps give more body to the overall pulse. And despite the relative harmonic stasis of these compositions, saxophonist Jacques Henri Taylor builds up enough forward momentum and energy to propel the group forward.
Transcendental Psychology is the kind of record you might want to play when relaxing with friends or simply chilling at home. The music on this disc may not be particularly dense or challenging, but that's the beauty of it. This disc packs a delicious groove and enough punch to keep up constant interest. And at times, it's got a body-shaking edge that might just get you up out of your chair. It will be exciting to see what happens with tomorrow's reincarnation of Transcendental Psychology.
Personnel: Chris Lockett: guitar, keyboards, oud; Jacques Henri Taylor: tenor saxophone; Brian Lee: bass; F. Carter Hoodless: drums, dr. beat; Bernardo Gajano: percussion; Jessica Seidel: cello; Nina Spensley: vocals.