The long-time jazz/funk band Lettuce has been referred to in terms that liken their sound to an evangelizing of funk and that is certainly a fitting descriptions for a good portion of their music. What the funk-laden descriptions obscure is that the blending of a strong jazz element makes this group unique. That aspect is largely driven by an enhanced reed and brass section some of whom perform elsewhere as The Shady Horns. The EP Mt. Crushmore is the sixth release from the group.
In their twenty-five years together drummer Adam Deitch, guitarists Adam Smirnoff and Eric Krasno, bassist Erick Coomes, and saxophonist Ryan Zoidis have been members of Lettuce from the outset. Keyboardist Neal Evans and trumpeters Eric Bloom and Rashawn Ross were later additions and round out the octet which includes guest vocalist and recurrent collaborator Alecia Chakour of the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
The catchy, wide-open horn section introduces the title track; an infectious intermingling of genres that comes off like a marching band playing James Brown. "116th St.," with its oscillating rhythm, is propelled by Deitch and Bloom and a more dance-oriented piece. "Lude, Pt. 5" picks up a series very brief, sequential ideas that began on Crush (Self-produced, 2015). The more theatrical "Elephant Walk" adapts a tenacious percussive effect with the bass and B3 bottoming out in contrast to the sharpness of the brass and reeds. The darker opening of "Ransome" belies the rocking guitars to come and is followed by the change of pace "The Love You Left Behind," featuring Chakour's warm vocal. The spatial "'Lude, Pt. 6" wraps up the album like a subliminal reminder of the Lettuce's dazed alter ego.
There are moments of sonic experimentation within these pieces and when combined with a blaring horn section, the effect can be close to chaos, but sanity prevails. Perfect foils for each other, the musicians find their own voices even while executing on strong group dynamics and all in a relentless marathon of sound. As a result, Mt. Crushmore is high-energy fun that doesn't take a break. It swings, rocks and occasionally rips but Lettuce is definitely not a group for reflection.
Mt. Crushmore; 116th St.; ‘Lude, Pt. 5; Elephant Walk; Ransome; The Love You Left Behind; ‘Lude, Pt. 6.
Erick Coomes: bass; Adam Deitch: drums, percussion; Neal Evans: keys, B-3 organ, piano; Eric Krasno: guitar; Adam Smirnoff: guitar; Ryan Zoidis: saxophones; Eric Bloom: trumpet; Rashawn Ross: trumpet; Alecia Chakour: vocal (6).
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