Interstatic – Arise (2014)

While Jamie Saft seeks to redefine the tried-and-true piano/bass/drums trio, his Rare Noise Records label-mate Roy Powell (Hammond B3), along with Jacob Young (guitar) and Jarle Vespestad (drums) are doing good work in reformulating the organ/guitar/drums concept. Interstatic, as this electric (and electrifying) trio is called, shows what can happen when top-notch jazz guys make a foray into blues-rock while keeping their jazz instincts intact.

This isn’t a band sitting still. Using abstract modalisms on their first album (Anthem), they pushed into the Terje Rypdal’s open spaced jazz-rock territory for the second long player, Interstatic. Arise (out August 7, 2014 by Rare Noise Records) is another thing altogether, a dirtier, bluesier, and even looser record. Moving away further from the contours of jazz but not totally abandoning its complexities and wrinkles, Arise not just jumps into mud puddles, it’s lathered up in the gooey, grimy stuff.

“Doozy Mugwamp Blues” is played out in the classic blues-rock style, but Powell slips in some soul and expertly modulates the intensity. In spite of the fuzzy tone, Young plays it jazzy on the first solo go around and like Jimi Hendrix the second. The Hendrix stylings are even more evident on the next track “Caerbannog,” but Powell and Vespestad capture just as much attention with Powell manning a vintage Moog are playing a descending circular figure as Vespestad machetes through his rhythms.

Other late 60s-early 70s heroes serve as inspiration. “Alpha Dog” swings, but with rock intensity, illustrating for us that Tony Williams’ seminal fusion outfit was rooted in jazz deeper than what you might think. Powell, like his B3 hero Larry Young, plays thoughtfully, intensely and free of clichés. “Frank’ll Fix It,” as in ‘Frank Zappa,’ is built around a classic style rock guitar riff and Young’s guitar solo is “less is more” sublimity; sometimes it’s all about tone and feel. The guitar/organ unison theme of “Alexa” appears to borrow slyly from the serpentine lines of Zappa’s “King Kong.” “Iwato,” featuring some dynamic drumming and a soulful, tortured guitar, could pass for a lost track from Abraxas.

Twice now, Powell, Young and Vespestad made big changes to their approach even though what they were doing worked and each time out has been just as good as the time before. The rougher edges of the guttural Arise revisits the period when jazz and rock collisions created explosive music and rekindles the old magic with new vigor.

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.