Throttle Elevator Music – Area J (2014)

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Powered by the garage jazz-rock songs of Gregory Howe and Matt Montgomery with the brash saxophone stylings of Kamasi Washington, Throttle Elevator Music is back with a second helping. Area J (on sale October 28, 2014) follows up on the 2012 self-titled debut and again is another creation of Wide Hive Records founder and producer Howe and his penchant for leveraging the San Francisco Bay Area talent who regularly pass through his studio. Under Howe’s direction, his house band The Wide Hive Players have served as a crack backing group to Larry Coryell and Calvin Keys and made a few records on their own.

Throttle Elevator Music is another one of Howe’s quest to find the right combination of musicians at hand for the right music at hand. Howe, who produces and arranges the music, gets the basics all squared away with Montgomery, who plays bass, guitar, organ and a little piano. For Area J, drummer Mike Hughes supplies the beats and Washington is the main protagonist out front with his tenor sax. These sixteen jams are to the point and aren’t long enough to allow anyone to noodle around. Even with Montgomery handling most of the chores, making overdubbing a necessity, Howe manages to make it sound like these tunes were all recorded live in the studio to analog tape. Just like all good rocking soul-jazz records used to be made.

It’s so raw at times, it feels like a garage band playing jazz. “Raucous Rock” sets the tone with its instrumental punk rock and Washington’s full-toned sax playing the vocal part. “End of the Day” puts an experimental bent on garage band music. The rapid-fire “Efflux” recalls the endless, instant energy of the Ramones.

Montgomery’s thrumming bass not only holds down the bottom end but also serves and a second guitarist as heard on “Suspending Disbelief.” He lets loose a rolling bass for “Trophy Set” and is muscular just about everywhere else. But Washington is the guy who gets most of the spotlight and he knows what to do with it. And that means not playing like Sonny Rollins to this rugged, raw brand of jazz-rock. Instead he’s often channeling the ragged soul of late Clarence Clemons, and he unleashes a torrent of notes on the kinetic β€œEnd of the Day.”

Erik Jekabson is brought in as Washington’s foil for some tracks, his electrified trumpet combining with Washington’s tenor for The Knack-styled “March of I’ds.” “Who Can Do No Wrong” is a driving two chord rock riff that both Washington and Jekabson jam over, but before it gets too repetitious, the bridge comes in as the song reaches full throttle and the riff returns but in a higher key. The two horn players engage in call and response on the New Wave groove of “Requimission” and play competing harmonic lines on “Looking Up” while harmonizing nicely on the bridge.

There are too many nifty ideas to fully cover in this space — like the garage rock set to a bossa nova beat on “After The Sun” — but it’s all done in the spirit of straight-at-ya fun. Once again with Area J, Throttle Elevator Music is a good use for all that Wide Hive talent.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon 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. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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