|Spencer Katzman Threeo - 5 is the New 3
The Spencer Katzman Threeo’s debut release on 6V6 Records, entitled 5 is the new 3, is a ten track adventure that deftly skirts the jazz-rock fusion cliché while paying homage to a multitude of styles and artists within the genre. Composed of relatively short instrumental pieces, 5 is the new 3 fully hits the mark on a rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic level.
Backed by Keith Witty (double bass) and Dave Sharma (drums), Katzman takes off from the starting line with the short and sweet "King of Carrot Flowers," a study in 5/4 that sounds unforced and flows over the understated groove of his very able rhythm section.
"Guiding Light" follows with chord melodies, rock-influenced riffs, and polymeter licks that float over and tug with yet another rock solid groove from the drummer and bassist.
On "Clinton Hill," Katzman switches from electric to acoustic guitar. Backed by tabla and bass, he conjures up the jazzier acoustic stylings of Bruce Cockburn or Oregon in this nearly five minute exodus that will have your body moving and grooving uncontrollably.
"Emma J" is a track that exemplifies the true meaning of the word "fusion." It utilizes an over-driven rock tone accentuated with funky tom-tom work, and it nods toward eastern music through natural minor and Middle Eastern sounding scales. The common thread that connects music the world over is heard and felt in this exciting tune.
It is obvious throughout all the tracks on this album, that Katzman possesses a broad and deep knowledge of rock and jazz styles, guitar tones, and most impressively, a very natural sounding ability to place his chord work and melodies in the sweet spot of the groove. "So Long, Old Friend" is a perfect example of his diverse influences. The interplay between the bass and guitar is tasty and exciting without being "over the top".
"Where’s Frankie?" is a solid Latin groove-driven cut featuring wonderful arppegiated chord and chord melody sections that fuse the Americas, North and South, in a very musical fashion.
The title track is reminiscent of some of Bill Frisell’s work, showcasing intricate drum and guitar interplay. It is the sound of three seasoned musicians cutting loose, as I imagine the Spencer Katzman Threeo might sound in a live club setting. I also hear nods to Zappa and Scofield.
An appropriate end to a refreshingly interesting album, "The Tami Show" closes the disc with a simple opening motif that morphs into a round of guitar and rhythm section interplay, once again, proving the depth and breadth of the musicianship on this record.
The material on 5 is the new 3 is executed in a casual, understated, seemingly effortless manner, yet is wholly dynamic and passionate. I believe that a great album, as well as a great performance, always leaves the audience wanting more. While I liked this CD the first time I heard it, and even more so with repeated plays, I am left to wonder where some of these great songs wound up after the end fade and to imagine what live workouts of these concise tracks might further reveal. In essence, I want to hear more of the Spencer Katzman Threeo.