105

Avatar: The Cosmic Hand

By

Sign in to view read count
Avatar: The Cosmic Hand My motto: If you’re not pushing ahead, you’re falling behind. You see it everywhere you look these days: retro clothing styles, overdone movie and TV concepts, retread political candidates... there’s just no originality anymore. And nowhere is this more true than in music, where a seemingly endless parade of new acts bubble to the surface with little more than a handful of Stevie Wonder covers and a Fender Rhodes.

That’s why The Cosmic Hand, the first album from the New York-based quintet Avatar, is so refreshing. This group could so easily have decided to be just another instrumental funk band, pumping out tired bass themes and slightly overdriven guitar solos for the masses of rumpled English majors. But they’ve taken the high ground, mixing their jazz-infused sound with Latin beats, downtown soul, pure funk, and a little bit of rock to create a unique sound that’s part Galactic, part Ulu, part James Brown, and all “hip-hop funk-jazz.”

They kick start the record with “Marsala,” a song that, like many Avatar compositions, focuses on a tight horn theme and Matt Williams’ bass work. It offers a nice springboard for their improvisations, as does the next track, “Bharum Scarum,” which is essentially the same tune in a different key. They slow it down on “Flyin’ Low” and “Meskerim,” passing the lead around on both tracks, but it’s the title track that really stands out. A sort of double-time Latin swing, if there is such a thing, “The Cosmic Hand” shifts back and forth between mayhem and decorum on Seth Goldberg’s hi-hat, all the while carrying a variety of screaming off beat solos toward the brink of collapse. Of the seven tracks, this one best shows the group’s range and imagination.

An up-tempo program on The Cosmic Hand works because the driving horns, tight guitar chords, and surprisingly mature solo lines push the listener forward and keep the disc from becoming boring or repetitive. Matt Dickey lays down track after track of impressive guitar work, ranging from in-the-pocket comps to front-and-center solos, such as his toe-tapping work midway through “Scarum.” Marshall Gilkes and Vince Veloso are equally effective on horns.

The Cosmic Hand is a well done disc all around, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from this group in the future. They’re not quite there yet, though their inexperience doesn’t mar this fine outing. I’m interested to see what a few years in the New York trenches will do for their sound. Recommended.

Visit www.avatarband.com for samples and more information.


Track Listing: Marsala; Bharum Scarum; Flyin' Low; The Cosmic Hand; Meskerim; Shiva Shuffle; Alkebulan

Personnel: Matt Dickey - guitar; Marshall Gilkes - trombone; Seth Goldberg - drums; Vince Veloso - saxes, winds, trumpet; Matt Williams - bass

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Independent Records | Style: Funk/Groove


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Love Wins Again" CD/LP/Track Review Love Wins Again
by James Nadal
Published: June 9, 2016
Read "Euro Swing Vol. 2" CD/LP/Track Review Euro Swing Vol. 2
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 24, 2016
Read "How to Build a City" CD/LP/Track Review How to Build a City
by Jim Olin
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "Black Art Jazz Collective - Presented By The Side Door Jazz Club" CD/LP/Track Review Black Art Jazz Collective - Presented By The Side Door Jazz Club
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 28, 2016
Read "Shipwreck 4" CD/LP/Track Review Shipwreck 4
by John Sharpe
Published: August 16, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!