The musical collaboration between bassist Gary Willis and drummer Kirk Covington goes back a long way, to college bands and later with jazz/fusion band Tribal Tech. Over twenty-five years later (and seven years after the demise of Tribal Tech) the two musicians are still creating great rhythms together on Slaughterhouse 3.. Joined by adventurous Spanish saxophonist Llibert Fortuny, the trio has made an album of powerful grooves which falls outside conventional categorization, yet which remains wholly accessible.
The tone for much of the music is set by the opening title track, a power-trio funk number which goes from zero to sixty in about three seconds. Fortuny's distorted saxophone sounds guitar-like on this belting track. The use of effects on the saxophone lends the music an experimental, avant-garde character here and on "Let's Go, which features a ferociously fast bass line, but it is never overcooked, and there is plenty of admirable straight-ahead playing from the young Catalan musician elsewhere. On the spacious, stripped down "Trapeze, Fortuny plays a delightfully slow and sleazy, blues-edged solo.
Although the musicianship is first-rate throughout, the music is largely devoid of show-stopping solos. The trio instead meditates on a groove, plug simple yet effective riffs, and seem more interested in establishing the atmosphere of a tune. "Toxic ploughs a slower, almost sinister, prowling groove before shifting up a gear. Willis really works the strings on his bass while Fortuny's sax chatters away without ever letting go. Here and elsewhere the power of the music often lies in the restraint shown.
The music on Slaughterhouse 3 is by no means one-dimensional; "Another Chance is a gentle, soothing piece where drums and bass whisper to each other. Fortuny plays serenely, almost respectfully on this beautiful track which could almost have been written by Joe Zawinul.
Undoubtedly funky and at times lyrical, the music on Slaughterhouse 3 is also nicely edgy, exploring some dark and heavy musical avenues. Willis, Covington and Fortuny all excel on a fascinating album which will hopefully be only the first of further collaborations together.