Foreign Motion – In Flight (2013)

Last year Cory Wong made a sweeping musical statement — or should I say, several statements — sprawling over 2 discs. Quartet/Quintet revealed not just the wide ambition of this guitarist from Minneapolis, Minnesota but the wherewithal to realize it.

So what’s next for Mr. Wong? Foreign Motion.

Foreign Motion is Wong in an ensemble setting, along with Kevin Gastonguay on piano/keyboards, Yohannes Tona on bass and Petar Janjic on drums. This is also an unabashedly fusion jazz setting, too, not much straddling the lines between the styles happening here. What might be lost in the esoteric quality of Quartet/Quintet is compensated for by the dynamic energy found on nearly every track, with enough twists in the plot to keep you engaged well beyond the first couple of listens; they didn’t forget about the progressive element of fusion jazz.

That’s why songs often have more than one riff, more than one tempo, and plenty of ideas that get everyone in the band involved equally. “The Funk Underground” comes crashing in with a rambunctious chorus, with the wall of loud held at bay during the solo performances comprising of a serpentine guitar/bass unison followed by Gastonguay’s taut, percussive piano soloing over a new pattern. It’s a little knotty, yes, but in a purposeful way.

“Until It Falls” is another rapid chorus that injects itself in the middle of swinging segments, where Wong’s guitar is sounding a lot like the great Philip Catherine. “Kings” starts with a tough bass riff on a slow strut that’s strong enough to be the whole song, but instead catapults into a fast shuffle. That’s where Wong wrings a lot of passion from his guitar and Gastonguay douses it with a cool Rhodes solo. After all that and an admirably stormy drum solo, the band returns to original funk stride.

“Kaleidiscope” is angular funk that’s somehow kept locked down tight by the Tona/Janjic rhythm section, providing the perfect backdrop for Wong’s stinging notes. “Drift” is the slow burner of the batch, a platform for Wong’s tasty blues licks. The too-short “In Fight” plays like an uptempo Spyro Gyra song, underscored by a slick opening sequence of notes led by Wong. “Pass The Plate” is a foray into straight-ahead stuff, a madly swinging number and an occasion for each band member to show off their sizable bop chops. The song still fits with the rest of the program because the energy level and the vibe it throws off are consistent.

Foreign Motion is too good of a secret for the Twin Cities to have all by themselves. Funky, intelligent and propulsive, they got the formula right on the first time around with In Flight.

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In Flight goes on sale October 15. If you’re in the Minneapolis area, the CD release party runs October 18 and 19 at 9pm at The Artists’ Quarter 408 St Peter Street, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102. Visit Foreign Motion’s website for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.