The Process is like a radioactive atom that centers and orbits around the futuristic power trio of bassist Bill Laswell, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Jon Batiste, the latest in his family's longstanding line of New Orleans keyboard visionaries.
"The original idea was to film unfamiliar musicians playing together in a room with no preconceived direction. Over time it began to transform into making a record," Laswell explains. "Beginning by exploring each other's musicianship, laying out fundamental structures and patterns, morphing them into new and alternate shapes fused together to form constructsthen adding new sounds, words and first-rate musicians to the growing core. I kept saying, 'It's a Process, it takes time."
Several tracks seem to echo some of the most progressive music in jazz and rock history, while Smith drives this entire Process with passionate drumming that sounds and feels genuinely tribal.
"Spiral" is the perfect description of this tune's rhythmic flow, moved by Smith's drums in a circular tribal beat that doesn't stop so much as it simply runs out of time. Smith and Laswell churn the instrumental "Timeline" into a space-age New Orleans organ trio: Laswell's bass doubles as the trio's guitar, Smith thickly spreads second line snare drumming throughout the jam while Batiste's organ rockets through the stratosphere (you might even say, in deference to Sun Ra, that Batiste travels the spaceways).
"Haunted" is another simply perfect title: Toshinori Kondo turns in an amazingly Miles Davis-like performance, with his trumpet thickly processed through electronics into sharp jabs and soaring shrieks of turbulent electric blue, red and purple sound; in the spacey middle passage, Kondo's trumpet seems to stop, then stretch, and then expand both sound and time, with extended breathy blues.
"The Drift" opens with synthesizer recycling and occasionally refracting a small melodic figure while Smith's drums slowly but surely bring a larger sound to rhythmic life, a kind of jazz-rock-African-electronic fusion in which Laswell has been trading long enough to trademark. Soprano saxophone from Peter Apfelbaum, tethered only to those drums, suggests saxophonist Mel Collins' playing on formative sides by early King Crimson or Roxy Music, an "everything old/new is new/old again" sound to complete The Process.
"I wanted to take a risk and be inspired by other musicians who feel the same. There was no music written before we got to the studio. Whatever comes into your headgrab a rhythm and run with it," Smith concludes. "I tried not to play grooves I've done before. I know Jon was stretching as well. This project was an exercise in growth and trust."
B1; Drop Away; Timeline; Haunted; B2; Turn on the Light/Ascent; Black Arc; Spiral; B3; Time Falls; The Drift.
Jon Batiste: piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, electronic keyboards, harmonaboard, percussion; Chad Smith: drums, percussion; Bill Laswell: basses, guitars, electronics; Tunda Adebimpe: vocals; Killah Priest: vocals; Garrison Hawk: vocals; Toshinori Kondo: trumpet; Peter Apfelbaum: flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Dominic James: guitar.
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