You know where you are with organ / guitar / drums trios. The genre is among the most rigorously codified in jazz and has remained fundamentally unchanged since Jimmy Smith erupted on the US scene in the mid 1950s. In large part this is because the tonalities and textures of the Hammond B3 are finite and inflexible, while synths and digital technology in general have opened up limitless keyboard possibilities. The template Smith laid down on A New Sound, A New Star (Blue Note, 1956) has prevailed ever since, with just some tweaking possible around the edges.
So for the style to still sound exciting in 2020 it needs to be played by musicians who approach it with enough passion to suggest the thrill of a fresh discovery. Milwaukee jazz-funk trio Funky Chemist does that. Like most other trios on the scene, the group sounds like a cross between Jimmy Smith and The Meters. What separates the band from its cousins is a hefty infusion of hard rock. This is brought to the party by guitarist Daniel Nathan, who, when he is not laying down the funk, tours with Guns N' Roses tribute band Nightrain International. Charlie Hunter was among the first to travel in a similar direction, but Nathan ups the ante and then some.
There is precious little here that resembles what led The New Yorker's erudite jazz critic Whitney Balliett, seventy years ago, to define jazz as "the sound of surprise." In this ballpark, conviction carries the day. But the album's break-out single, "City To City," is picking up airplay on jazz and rock stations and it deserves to. Groove Generator does exactly what it says on tin.
City To City; Pollo Frito; Pirate’s Alley; Train Wreck; Mai Tai; Merchant; Salsa Shark; MF Yeah!
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