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Somethingfour: Somethingfour

Mark Sabbatini By

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Having short-changed them once, why not do it again? After all, the world is full of talented unknowns.

It's easy to praise Somethingfour's self-titled debut album as a meaty combination of past intellect and modern attitude—for a measly $5, no less. But since they've already been stiffed when their impressive concert debut got a mere paragraph in an AAJ article about free live shows worth downloading instead of the full review it deserved, there's no point in being fair now.

The San Francisco quartet says it fuses "original composed music and improvised sounds while blending in influences of jazz and experimental rock." Big deal. Plenty of bands claim that and, frankly, a lot of them are awful. Toss that—Somethingfour composes the eight songs with originality and flair; surely that creativity can trickle into their marketing copy.

Besides, who are these guys? Their bio is scant—bassist Jeb Taylor "hails from" a variety of area bands, saxophonist Barry Thompson from various jazz and rock groups, and guitarist Christopher Zanardi "enjoys writing music"—and notes they've played with some locals. Rather tame for an era when musicians puff resumes by associating themselves with every "name" act that at some point played the same stage or festival they're now on.

So that leaves the album, for now pretty much available only through their web site,

At least they walk the walk.

Zanardi injects a heavy Bill Frisell presence into a concept hovering between complex fusion and acid jazz, with the wailing tone of his electric guitar a dead-on reminder of the elder's rockish moments. Thompson's contemporary tone is the other dominant presence, nu-bopping with the comfort of a Sonny Rollins rather than the frenzy of a Wayne Shorter (there are exceptions, including a battle of licks with Zanardi on the loose swing of "Cutco"). Drummer Jme Brill turns in one of those great there/not there efforts, pacing with enough tonal variations that a lack of solo time really isn't missed.

They might be more distinct by pushing the envelope a bit, but recognizing consistently above average beats a lot of hits and misses is an admirable show of maturity. A good example is their version of freeform on the live fifteen-minute "Itzer," a colorful evolution of '60s garage rock, folk from guest electric violinist Mikey Henderson and straightforward fusion. The players mostly stay melodic on solos and it's nice to appreciate their thinking without repeated listens to relate to whatever "concepts" complete uninhibition might bring. The funky "8-4" gets more hoedown flavor from Henderson and the closing "Shippers" reveals a quirky rock side.

This album may not lift Somethingfour from obscurity—there's enough bands deserving wider recognition that it's like hoping your screams stand out among a couple hundred others when an outfielder tosses a ball into the stands. But by offering it dirt cheap and making live shows available free on the 'net, they can let loose a whale of a bellow.

Track Listing: Mums The Word; Turnhank; Cutco; 8&4; P.D.; Ertays Calling; Itzer; Shippers

Personnel: Chris Zanardi, guitar; Barry Thompson, saxophones and wind synthesizer; Jeb Taylor, bass; Jme Brill, drums; Mikey Henderson, fiddle, electric violin, mandolin

Title: Somethingfour | Year Released: 2005


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