Prurient implications of its title aside, Naked Movies hearkens back to the halcyon days of jazz-rock fusion minus the pretentious trappings and over-reliance on technique in place of feeling. The Coalition have chops to be sure, but instead of erecting structure within which to show offeither in the funk format or neo-classical archetypesthey prefer to play together and make music.
Proof positive exists in the opening track, "Tuna Whiskey, a piece of modified syncopation that rings and swings true before the band slips into the more atmospheric title song. Here the quartet's propensity to unify their attack by listening to each other is most advantageous. Each of the four tries to find ways to embellish the ideas just stated rather than create brand new ones in a parade of one-upsmanship.
As is the case here, the languorous mood that flows as an undercurrent through the entire CD is usually enhanced by keyboardist Scott Healy, often through his artful usage of old-school keyboards like the clavinet. It's left to guitarist Glenn Alexander to intensify the mood, either alone as on "The Loungy One, or by playing off Healy. "Beatnik Bob, in particular, features some of the most effective tradeoffs on the CD, which was recorded and produced by the band itself, and David Eyges.
Yet "33, recorded live, proves the impact both visceral and cerebral contained on Naked Movies is no digital trickery (notwithstanding drummer Shawn Pelton's credit for electronic voodoo): The Coalition is an electric group literally and figuratively, since they not only eschew acoustic instruments, but engage in instrumental interplay that virtually always crackles. Even at relatively low voltage, as on "Word from Ulster County, you can sense the pent-up energy at hand, even on what is almost a late-night blues.
The Coalition's diverse experience, ranging from keyboardist Healy's time doing movie music and bassist Mike Merritt's membership in Max Weinberg's group on Conan O'Brien, allows them to submerge their personalities in service of the music they make together. And there's a palpable sensation that the four enjoy the collaboration because few moments within the eight tracks here sound forced in the least, as if compositions arise naturally from The Coalition's collective musicianship.
The only falters of any sort are slight and, though appearing toward the end of the album, nevertheless find the band compensating in time. Alexander succumbs to trying to outplay himself on "c0ke, and the last cut, "Drum Sandwich, recalls the density and rhythmic sense of electric Miles a bit too much. But The Coalition recovers as drummer Pelton steps up the pace, the guitarist displays some restraint in response and, all of a sudden, you're hearing some charged interaction that makes as much use of space as sound (a positive influence of The Man with the Horn). The Coalition give a new definition to the word "fusion" on Naked Movies.
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