Blending modern jazz with any aspect of funk or R&B is a risky proposition for a young jazz musician. No matter how personal one's concept may be, or how artfully executed, a segment of the jazz- listening population is going to yell "sellout!" at the first electric bass slap. Though he doesn't do slap bass, Michael Feinberg
is unapologetically drawn to the funky, danceable aspects of jazz. He does so without really making any obvious pop or R&B overtures. Live At 800 East
is a jazz album through and through. But it's one that can get your hips moving. In a way, what he's attempting with his new band, Humblebrag, is reminiscent of the funky soul-jazz records that giants like Horace Silver
and Lee Morgan
were doing back in the 60s and 70s. Not interested in historical re-enactments, Feinberg and his band bring a 21st Century energy to the proceedings.
Feinberg made a huge statement with his previous album, The Elvin Jones Project
(Sunnyside Records, 2012). Accompanied by masters such as Billy Hart
and George Garzone
, Feinberg succeeded notably on several fronts: paying homage to the one of the all-time great drummers, calling attention to Elvin Jones the composer, and bringing Jones' music to life in the present time. While the Elvin Jones Project remains an ongoing concern, Humblebrag is a forum for the Atlanta-based bassist's own compositions played by a feisty young band that includes another remarkable drummer, Terreon Gully
, and the fine young pianist Julian Shore
, along with two excellent hornmen; Billy Buss
on trumpet and Godwin Louis
on alto. The nods to electric jazz (not fusion), also subtly present on The Elvin Jones Project
, are more pronounced on Humblebrag. Far from an attempt to connect with a different segment of the jazz audience, these influences are an integral part of Feinberg's musical vocabulary.
Feinberg contributes six solid original jazz compositions for Live At 800 East
. These aren't the labyrinthine works of the Brooklyn set. The tunes here are well-crafted blowing vehicles for a young band that really wants to stretch out. Gully's explosive, chops-intensive drumming is featured on the heraldic opener, "Tutuola," which is inexplicably faded out just as the piece catches fire. "Puncher's Chance" is a pleasant, plaintive soul-jazz foray featuring Shore's lyrical piano, and then the duelling horns of Buss and Louis tumbling over funky drums and vamping bass. The mutated second-line rhythm and bluesy changes of "Duckface" are both familiar and a bit odd. Gully does some interesting things here as Shore chimes in with a fine solo before giving way to Buss and Louis. The first half of "But The Sound..." recalls Miles Davis
' In a Silent Way
(Columbia Records, 1969), before moving into an up-tempo hard bop section featuring Louis' probing alto saxophone solo. "Untitled 2" covers similar terrain, while the title track is an up-tempo boogaloo-based piece that gives everyone, including the leader, a chance to stretch out.
While the live sound on Live at 800 East
leaves something to be desired, and Shore's piano is largely swamped out by the bass and drums (especially on "Tutuola"), Feinberg and his crew succeed by offering modern jazz music that's accessible without being dumbed-down.