With the myriad of influences available to musicians these days, it's no wonder that it's often difficult to find categories in which to place them. Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær, while clearly rooted in jazz, finds equal inspiration in ambient, electronica, and drum-n-bass. Is it jazz? Well, as far as he seem to have strayed from any semblance of the mainstream, he still finds his way into the jazz section in most record stores, so somebody
must think it is. Radiohead, on the other hand, while drawing from some of the same sources, is always found in the rock section.
And so we come to Phuse, a group that once again challenges any kind of straightforward definition. With Gavin Lockhart's acoustic bass anchoring the proceedings and Adrian Kelly and Seán Og contributing saxophone solos that clearly traverse the inside and outside, there could be some argument that Phuse is a jazz band. On the other hand, guitarist Erik Lea's playing ranges from the more folksy inflections of "Isabella to a harder, more rock-informed edge and tonality. And Graham Gilligan's keyboards and samples, by virtue of his harmonic choices, have more to do with pop than jazz. Drummer Eric Courtney, rock steady all the way, may be the link between worlds, with a style that ranges from the harder-edged funk of "Technical Difficulties to his more supple touch on the noir-ish "Daddy Kane.
But, at the end of the day, does it really matter? Most artists prefer to avoid categorization anyway, and so on its self-titled debut, Phuse incorporates elements from a variety of musical universes. What gives the group some distinction, at least in the world of nu jazz, is its more organic approach. Lea and Gilligan may create more electronic textures, but Lockhart, Og, and Kelly are grounded in natural tones. Again, Courtney stands somewhere in the middle, with his drums sometimes recorded straight, other times more heavily processed.
Lockhart handles most of the compositional duties, with Lea contributing two tunes and keyboardist Kevin Dwanwho doesn't play on the album but is listed as a group member and album co-producer with Lockhartproviding the simple, chamber-like "Interlude of a Clown's Opera. Most of the pieces revolve around relatively simple conceits, and so it's up to the group to provide a variety of colours and, in the case of Courtney, rhythmic ideas to bring the pieces to life. Og and Kelly deliver most of the solosalthough Lea also contributes, most notably his searing and jagged work on "Los Boleros.
The more direct soloing which takes place on Phuse, in fact, differentiates it from some of its influenceslike Norwegian Eivind Aarset, who, despite his inestimable talents as a guitarist, spends little time in a traditional soloing context.
So, what exactly is Phuse? Difficult to say, but fans of the nu jazz scene and groups like the Cinematic Orchestra and Radiohead would be well-advised to check out this intriguing new outfit from Ireland.
For more information, contact bassist Gavin Lockhart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Track Listing: Daddy Kane; Carrott Soup Orchestra; Paul Van Horn; Interlude of a Clown's Opera; Isabella; Los Boleros; Shadow Boxing; Vertigo; Technical Difficulties; Lovelorn
Personnel: Gavin Lockhart (bass, guitar), Erik Lea (guitar), Eric Courtney (drums), Graham Gilligan (keyboards), Adrian Kelly (tenor saxophone, clarinet), SeŠn Og (soprano and alto saxophones, flute), Paul Fearon (percussion),
Year Released: 2005
| Record Label: duplication.ie
| Style: Fringes of Jazz