GAT has been through various incarnations since its debut EP, The Mysteryfunk (Fog City Records, 1999), necessitated by the departure of Hunter. The group's last album, 2011's Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil (Royal Potato Family), was actually made by a quartetSkerik, Moore, vibraphonist Mike Dillon and keyboardist Marco Beneventoand the band went into hiatus not long afterwards.
In 2019, the original lineup reunited for a three-night run at Seattle's Nectar Lounge, during which they spent an afternoon recording across the street at Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard's Studio Litho. Calm Down Cologne is the result. It is essentially a live-in-the-studio affair, with only one overdub (the brief appearance of singer Christa Wells) and edits confined to tidying up the beginning and ends of the tracks. Only the title tune was composed prior to the event and the other four tracks were collectively created on the hoof in the studio.
The album is constructed around GAT's longtime reference pointselectric era Miles Davis, George Clinton space funk, and free jazz. A riotous jazz-rock is in the ascendant, with "In-A-Pro-Pro" the only track explicitly to focus on Clinton's Parliament Funkadelic . All the knobs are turned up to eleven for the first thirty or so minutes, before dialling down for the closer, "Numinous." Fans of Skerik's saxophone may regret his concentrating on keyboards, but this is a minor cavil, and to expect him to go back later and overdub more saxophone would not be in keeping with the spirit of the album. Is it jazz? Yes. And no. Definitely. But one thing is certain: GAT is on the right side of the barricades.
No Zone; The Epic; Calm Down Cologne; In-A-Pro-Pro; Numinous.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.