Well, who would have thought it: the words “experimental jazz/fusion” appearing at the head of a Planet Mosh review? Never mind them being used to describe a release on the mighty Metal Blade?
Well, that’s exactly what is happening, as a result of Between the Buried and Me bassist Dan Briggs teaming with two fellow North Carolinians – the charismatic saxophonist/flautist Walter Fancourt and Eyris drummer Matt Lynch. The appropriately-monickered trio initially got together last summer, when they worked on a cover of the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘Celestial Terrestrial Commuters’ and a few original tunes with a view to playing a one-off live show – which in turn has led to the recording of debut album, ‘Separate Realities’.
The result is very much what it says in the description – 40 minutes of experimental jazz crossover, very much in the vein of the aforesaid Mahavishnu Orchestra (but without the guitar genius of John McLaughlin) and King Crimson. That word ‘crossover’ is very important, as there is a lot of that throughout this opus: take opener ‘Blast Off’ for example, which kickstarts the album with the sort of organic, progressive sax work that saw the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Lester Young push the boundaries of trad jazz in the mid- to late-1950s (although comparisons with Miles Davis’ more avant garde approach are more apt in more than one instance), yet is underpinned by some quite frankly brutal bass riffs, and at one stage Fancourt delivers a short, blistering solo which verges on speed metal territory in its ferocious brevity.
Briggs’ bass work is stunning throughout, swinging easily from pure freeform jazz to death metal heaviness, such as on the epic title track, and matching Fancourt’s stunning sax work to a degree that makes you forget there are no guitars present: both musicians substitute for the six strings with eerily accurate regularity, such as on the aforesaid title track, the stunning ‘Curse Of The Ninth’ (anyone with an education which even touched on classical music theory will fully appreciate the depth and width of this piece) and the amazing, surprising almost pure jazz workout of ‘wazzlejazzlebof’.
However, it’s ‘Celestial Terrestrial Commuters’ (from MO’s recently re-issued 1973 sophomore ‘Birds Of Flame’) which defines the album, its sound and its impact: Briggs and Fancourt again work off, against and with each other sublimely, while Lynch delivers another nigh-on perfect percussive performance that underpins the entire sound with eloquence, as the trio explore and push the boundaries as far as they can and in a manner that would make more raucous combos (such as Storm Corrosion, as a quick comparator) blush with the embarrassment of their traditionality.
If you’re a traditional straight-edge, straight-laced metaller, this album is definitely not for you. However, if your palette is somewhat more educated, and you’re prepared to open both your ears and mind to wonderful musicianship played nigh on perfectly, then you’ll agree with our rating of 9/10.
‘Separate Realities’ is available now on Metal Blade.