Bring up the word “hard core” to describe music and most people might think you’re referring to “hardcore punk” or “hardcore techno”, or any music with a louder, primitive edge to it. The jagged edges of the music from Seattle’s Hardcoretet, however, come not from brute force but rather, serpentine strains and tight interaction over sagacious grooves that were the hallmark of the classic fusion outfits like Return To Forever and Weather Report. A truly cooperative group, Hardcoretet also shares with those legacy bands a willingness to let everyone in the band to participate in the songwriting, which makes for varied content that together remains surprisingly coherent. For their second album, the brand-new Do It Live, these qualities are all on display, plus one more that not many fusion bands of today do: record the whole thing live in the studio, with no edits, no cuts.
Hardcoretet the quartet comprises of Tarik Abouzied on drums, Art Brown on alto sax, Aaron Otheim on electric keyboards and Tim Carey on electric bass. Carey’s solo album Room 114 gave us a favorable vibe earlier this year and he’s also a member of the self-described horn-heavy tone bandits, Reptet. Hardcoretet falls between these two acts on the adventurous meter, finding a balance between melody and spontaneity that’s likely to appeal to fusion lovers from both camps.
So yes, the basic melodies are easy to digest, but the countermelodies stick to ribs. And everyone in the band plays a key role in making that happen. Carey adroitly uses the full range of his bass to deepen the harmonics of a song, and Abouzied carries the load of directing the band through a maze of rhythmic changes and make it seamless. Brown is typically in charge of getting the theme into listener’s heads and Otheim gives us an occasional but thoughtful solo and, along with Carey, a lot of interesting counterpoints.
Highlights include Carey’s “Santa Barbara,” where waves of intensity are prodded by the dynamic drumming of Abouzied, and Brown’s “Yeti,” where about three or four interrelated harmonic threads are layered on top of each other and combined into a funky, explosive whole. Competing and complementing rhythms as well as melodies make Otheim’s “Urban Tribes” an enchanting track, too.
At less than 31 minutes, Do It Live is virtually EP size, which can be considered the only gripe about this CD. But I wouldn’t even bring that up if I didn’t want to hear more. Intricate, challenging compositional flair and in-the-moment performances: who says you can’t have it both ways? Certainly not Hardcoretet.