Characterizing themselves as “the psychedelic free music experience,” Earth People formed in 2001 after performing together in what would have been a one-time-only TV appearance. In addition to a core of André Martinez, Doug Principato, and Jason Chandler, the band also includes a who’s who of New York musicians, including Karen Borca, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Mark Hennen, and Francois Grillot. Vocalist M brings a flexible six-octave range that finds its way through thorny passages like smoke. Reed rioteers Carter, Mateen, and Chandler keep the pot stirred, while Martinez and Grillot give the musicians something to come home to.
Principatto’s acoustic guitar glissando launches “Birthright,” and Martinez follows him in. An unidentifiable sound like an accelerating jet engine whine rises above the band to land as the voice of M, riding the top of her sixth octave. Carter and Mateen float flutes into the humid groove. Hennen peppers piano shards; Borca flies on bassoon. M sings soulful mid-range poetry; Carter and Mateen switch to trumpet and alto clarinet, respectively. Principato’s rhythm work adds unexpected color. Martinez keeps the beat in the cymbals, except to come down briefly bashing through the drums, then back.
A flash lick on acoustic guitar slings the musicians into “Bojangles.” Chandler, Carter, and Mateen each show what an alto can do, while M goes from sweet to raspy improvising vocals. By the time she sings “It’s not the kind of waltz that I expected,” the band breaks apart with Martinez keeping the fireworks grounded. Grillot reinforces the time, but has his own ideas about melody. M ends it with a raspy gin-soaked blues accompanied by Martinez on lounge hi-hat, the band swirling around them.
Switching to Fender Rhodes, Principato makes it funky with Grillot and Martinez happy to oblige on “Breaking the Malaise.” The horns and M openly improvise, Mateen at one point playing a riff for the rhythm section. All freedom breaks out, with altos, tenor and bassoon calling, responding, and dodging the two pianos. M roams the bottom of her lower octave, then things heat up with Principato back on e-guitar and M going stratospheric.
Earth People create a unique and lively collaboration on Simple... Isn’t It? , a free-flowing kinetic kaleidoscope of sound.