Bassist Rich O'Brien is part of the Bristol music scene-a vibrant and creative group of musicians based in and around this west of England city. O'Brien can be found at the soulful and funky end of the musical spectrum, with his debut album, Hot Potato, mixing jazz, R&B, funk and soul into an enjoyable if undemanding set of original compositions.
O'Brien acknowledges the influence of bassist Marcus Miller and Soulive on his playing and writing. There are also suggestions of The Meters and the Average White Band in his combinations of horns, guitar and electric keyboards. "Hot Potato" is a guitar-led jam band tune, notable for O'Brien's single-note acoustic guitar solo. O'Brien's bass guitar leads on the ballad "Sweet Protection," showing his ability to deliver an eloquent melody on an instrument that rarely gets the chance to grab its place on the front line.
When Jonny Bruce and John Pratt contribute trumpet and saxophone to the mix they add a definite bite. On "Whiskey Fever" and "Definitive," their fluid unison playing sits neatly alongside Joe Price's guitar chords and on top of O'Brien and Brown's fat and funky rhythm. There's some stylish ensemble playing on "Frisky"-not quite as hyperactive a tune as its title suggests-with O'Brien's fat, rounded, bass sound giving the tune real depth. "Bliss" has a hint of vintage Santana in its opening bars, before morphing into a smoother, loungier, vibe courtesy of Bruce and Pratt's soft-toned horns.
The addition of guest violinist Rich Jones to the lineup for "Pastiche" suggests that O'Brien has a willingness to experiment beyond the usual boundaries of jam bands and funk. It's a shame that the tunes fades away with Jones still in full flight. However, Hot Potato demonstrates O'Brien's vision most completely on the soulful "Momentum," featuring vocalist Jack Skuse. The young singer's style is relaxed, confident and engaging, reminiscent of British singers such as Lewis Taylor and Paul Johnson. The collaboration between singer and instrumentalists shows real promise- hopefully there's more to come.
Track Listing: Hot Potato; Definitive; Momentum; Whiskey Fever; Sweet Protection; Pastiche; Bliss;
Frisky; Funkyard Jam; The Grunge.
Personnel: Rich O'Brien: bass, guitar; Jonny Bruce: trumpet; John Pratt: saxophone, flute; Sam
Mills: keyboards; Joe Price: guitar; Matt Brown: drums; Rich Jones: violin (6); Jack
Skuse: vocals (3).