Unique Clear Formula
"Unique Clear Formula" explores some of the many possibilities of the guitar, bass and drums trio format. The recording was done "live" in the studio and the tracks are presented in close to the order they were recorded, affording a glimpse of what a performance by this trio would bring. This is Ken Husbands' (guitar) first recording as a leader and he brought compositions reflecting diverse styles he has played over the years. He currently lives in Oakland, California and performs regularly in formations ranging in size from solo guitar to big band and stylistically from straight ahead jazz to funk to classical. Fernando Huergo (bass) and Steve Langone (drums) are two of the Boston, Massachusetts area's top call rhythm section players for all that is jazz. They both have extensive backgrounds in "Latin Jazz" and these rhythmic sensibilities come through here even where particular traditions are not explicitly evoked. The Oakland-based vocalist Suzanna Smith joins the trio for one of the disc's two cover tunes. Although it relates to the beautiful packaging this CD comes in (eco-friendly-ish digipack case with artwork about packaging), the title "Unique Clear Formula" is clearly tongue-in-cheek: there is no "unique clear formula" that produces or defines this music. It is based in the genre loosely defined as "jazz" but as the opening track "Ring Tones (Slight Return)" demonstrates, this group is not feeling genre constrained. The parenthetical subtitle is an obvious (for those who remember) nod to Jimi Hendrix and his revolution of the sound of the electric guitar; the free improvisation ranges from contemporary electronica and minimalism to a hip hop inspired groove near the end. The second track, "G Minor Jam," jumps straight into straight-ahead jazz, with an easy swing and a melody showing chromatic traces of Spanish guitar and a Monk-like bridge; the band stretches out in the traditional solo format. "Just a Second" reassures us that we are not headed off on a straight-ahead jazz trajectory: the driving groove and the airy melody suggest an amalgam of world beat influences. The tempo slows down with "What Night?" and rapid fire improvisation gives way to harmonically structured composition, at least momentarily. "Tweak" brings back a driving rhythmic pulse, this time with a funk influenced 16th note feel. The tune earns it's name when the guitar goes into ring modulator mode in the middle of the solo. Langone takes it out with an explosive drum break over a 7 / 8 pattern. "Two Years Later" starts off slow, but soon jumps into a double time bossa nova feel and Huergo displays his incredible melodic playing and memory. Suzanna Smith joins the trio for the next song, Joni Mitchell's "Blue." This version applies a steady rhythmic pulse and spare accompaniment to a song that Mitchell originally recorded accompanying herself on piano. "Soul Eyes" is a jazz standard recorded by John Coltrane and so many others; Huergo and Langone play a beautiful slow double time bossa feel under a heartfelt melody. The peace is soon disrupted by the raucous "Scobash." On this John Scofield inspired tune Husbands reveals that yes, he does own a distortion pedal. "Ring Tones" is a twelve minute guitar-effect laden freely-improvised odyssey where the trio explores a lot of things and has a blast!