Velocity brings me back to a time when funk-jazz still retained a lot of jazz elements but also had nice, hook-laden melodies. The Tacoma, Washington based quartet got started only four years ago, sprung from a collaboration between drummer Brian Smith and keyboard player Peter Adams. Rounded out by Cliff Colón (saxophone) and bassist Rob Hutchinson (bass), the band issued their first album in 2014.
Just barely a year and a half later, Velocity is preparing to drop album #2. Displacement Over Time (due December 9, 2015) is a set of nine new originals that is that throwback to when contemporary jazz didn’t mean smooth jazz. Rather, the grooves are organic, the melodies have more than one or two chord changes involved and there’s real improvisation going on. And yet, it satisfies your pop craving all the same. Among the “recommended if you like…” comparisons, Spyro Gyra and the Jeff Lorber Fusion come first to mind.
In fact, the keyboard/sax unisons over slippery rhythms heard on the opener on “Mosaic” are straight out of the Lorber playbook, and “Velocity,” the song, is a brisk shuffle over a buoyant bass line. “Clarity and Precision” is sometimes pretty, sometimes pretty funky (and a pretty, poetic bass solo from Hutchinson, too, I might add).
Although this is an electric band and Adams sometimes uses a synthesizer, the focus here is always placed on the music and tight group interplay and not the tools by which it’s carried out. That’s why the piano-based numbers like the ballad “Ecliptic,” the lightly prancing “Reflections,” and the propulsive “Luna” all fit in comfortably with all the synth and electric piano-laced tunes.
Velocity gets just as creative with the beats as they do with the harmony, and jagged but funky rhythmic patterns define up tempo numbers such as “Penrose” and especially “Generator,” where a maniacal, circular bass figure is contrasted by a fluid, harmonic counterpoint offered up by Colón and Adams.
The music that Velocity plays is sometimes complex but always easy on the ears. That’s why Displacement Over Time is easy to recommend if old school funk-jazz is your thing.
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