In 1970, George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic fame made a declaration on Funkadelic’s second LP: Free Your Mind, and Your Ass will Follow. From that point, funk music started adopting elements of psychedelic acid rock, creating a bitch’s brew of rhythms which straight, seemed incongruent, but on acid, brought the listener to the edge of nirvana.
Fortunately, this potent mix remains in jazz and funk today, and San Francisco’s jazz collective Mushroom has created a mind-bending, atonal trip with guest artist Eddie Gale on their latest release Joint Happening.
Gale, a journeyman trumpeter who has shared stages with pianist Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Elvin Jones, is clearly the star here. While Mushroom pumps out marvelous rhythmic constructs, Gale comes through with a clear, edgy sound reminiscent of Lester Bowie and Jon Hassell. As a whole, the best description of Joint Happening appears on the group’s website- “imagine 1970 Miles Davis jamming with experimental pioneers Can and Crazy Horse.”
Mushroom consists of Matt Henry Cunitz on keyboards and acoustic piano, Dave Mihaly on marimba, Erik Pearson and Tim Plowman on guitar, Pat Thomas on drums, Ned Doherty on bass, and David Brandt on percussion. On each track, the band guides Gale through a maze of African beats, European techo-jazz, chunky, chunky acid funk, and moments of spiritualism a la Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.
Every track on Joint Happening is transcendent however, the eighteen minute “I Was Torn Down at the Dance Place-Shaved Head at the Organ” is the standout piece, a fantastic ensemble work that shifts from one style to another with tremendous grace. The journey is navigated flawlessly by Gale, whose trumpet runs take on an ethereal quality giving the whole project an unbalanced, unearthly feel similar to his work with Sun Ra. It is a great tribute to the legacy of acid rock and experimental jazz greats including Jimi Hendrix, Bill Laswell, and Bowie.
Obviously Joint Happening isn’t for everyone. Before indulging in this brilliant album, I’d strongly suggest novices invest in the works of saxophonist Albert Ayler, Bowie, and yes, even Funkadelic’s early work, because this album takes the craft by these artists to an entirely new level. A better understanding of the roots of this work will create an appreciation for the multi-headed approach of Joint Happening.
After listening to Gale and Mushroom, you may find your mind freeing up and your ass following. Joint Happening channels the greatness of the lost art of psychedelic jazz/funk, sending its vibrant waves of joy through your head and down to hips that will surprisingly start swaying.