Mumpbeak – Tooth (2017)

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feature photo: Einar Thorbjoernsen

Some four years after a stimulating debut, the old school, prog-rock fusion power trio Mumpbeak returns. Tooth heralds a tweak in the lineup, but its freewheeling mission remains the same.

At the center of Mumpbeak lies keyboardist Roy Powell, who has also participated in other progressive-minded Rare Noise projects Naked Truth and Interstatic. But at the center of the center is Powell’s Hohner clavinet, which through effects pedals and a Fender valve amp has turned the instrument into a fuzzy electric guitar with keys instead of strings and frets. That’s the main ingredient in this muscular, analog sound that evokes many of the most adventurous prog-rock pioneers of the early 70s, like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Gentle Giant and Focus, with the jazz chops of Tony Williams’ Lifetime.

Powell is joined by his Naked Truth colleague, the Italian bass wunderkind Lorenzo Feliciati, who holds down the bottom end full time after sharing that role mostly with Bill Laswell the first time around. Pat Mastelotto is no longer manning the drums, but that’s all right because Torstein Lofthus (Elephant 9, Shining) handles those chores just fine. Although he’s the ‘new’ guy, Powell is obviously anxious to show everyone what Lofthus can do, who dominates with a powerful, straight ahead drumming on the explosive “Saw” and the nuanced, odd-metered/multi-metered pieces such as “Boot,” where his swing his just as good as his groove. His finest occasion comes at the end of “Caboose,” a drum solo that’s locked into the pocket and not sounding like anyone else.

But this is a unit built to make the most of what everyone is great at and bring it all together effortlessly. So, a song like “Boot” features sinewy bass figures from Feliciati as Powell fires off a few remarks on a Moog and Lofthus fills up a cloud of cymbals, but it’s all in the service of a certain, slinky vibe. “Brick” picks up roughly where “Boot” leaves off, but sprinkled with bursts of quick progressions and more room for Powell to stretch on his souped-up clavinet.

The first two cuts signal that Powell has no intention of going overly heavy with his guitar-sounding keyboard even with a rhythm section at hand more than able to bring down the thunder (as they do on “Saw”); “Slip,” for instance, is content to float along on a cyclical psychedelic stride. “Caboose” goes further in leaving open wide spaces in the sound due to Powell and Feliciati conjuring up dark, ambient electro-textures, leading into Lofthus’ jazz swing four minutes later that takes the number into other directions. “Cot” begins mildly enough but with a build-up that sets up a Keith Emerson moment for Powell and before it gets too long-winded, he abruptly shuts down the song.

“Stone” is more than suggestive of Miles Davis’ early fusion jams and Powell takes this opportunity to rain down copious amounts of Hammond B-3 through this funky and loose rumpus.

Tooth, now out via Rare Noise Records, not only continues ideas Roy Powell first put forth on the self-titled debut, but also makes it plain that there’s plenty of room for Mumpbeak to expand on those ideas.


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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