Bassist Victor Wooten, saxophonist Bob Franceschini, and drummer Dennis Chambers slam together a new 21st-century fusion sound on Trypnotyx, their new jazz-funk-fusion album. After launching their magic bus with a backwards glance at 20th-century psychedelia, they take us on a head-spinning journey that fans of Primus and Tool should dig just as deeply as those who fondly remember the sunny heyday of Weather Report.
As expected on a Wooten project, the album seethes with virtuosity. But every track also drips with fun, sometimes the in-your-face kind, elsewhere a little more subtle. No matter how busy the arrangements get, there’s always a twinkle in the eye of the storm, whether it’s the gypsy-style theme of “Liz & Opie,” the airy funk of “Cruising Altitude,” the joyous high-speed “Funky D,” or the slinky blues of “The 13th Floor” with its sneaky oscillation between swing and funk.
It’s easy to forget that nobody’s comping the changes on a guitar or keyboard. The trio creates its landscapes – somehow both impressionistic and intricately detailed – with bass, drums, horns, and some soulful guest vocals from Varijashree Venugopal and Michael Winslow.
Most captivating on many tracks are the beats, which focus more on deceptive polyrhythms than on unusual time signatures. The trippy little slow section in “A Soul Full of Ballad” (playfulness extending to the song titles), the off-kilter rhythm of the flute theme against the straight 6/4 beat of “Cupid,” and the soft-footed middle-eight in the title track are just a few examples of the rhythmic invention that defines these original compositions.
Unexpected sounds and textures also light the way: Witness the sudden intrusion of a bowed solo in the mostly straightforward “A Soul Full of Ballad,” or Franceschini’s explorations on digital-age instruments (E.W.I., Roland Aerophone). The sax player also contributes nicely melodic flute lines in “Caught in the Act.”
The pervasive sense of fun crescendos in the showoffy but good-natured “One Hand.” But listen to Chambers’s subtle touches on the drum kit, like his alternating accents in the tag of the same song, and you’re reminded once again of the attention to detail that knits the good times into art.
“Is anyone working on a bomb that makes people love each other?” ask children’s voices in “Final Approach” as the journey draws to a close. Yes, and constantly: As Venugopal’s twirling vocals and Franceschini’s dancing flute demonstrate in “Cupid,” “It’s called music, and it can save the world.” A nice thought, idealistic, but sometimes, if you open your ears and your mind, possible to believe. The supreme talent and skill drenching this album from start to finish attest to, if nothing else, the heights of artistic accomplishment humans with all their flaws can reach. The disc is a joy from beginning to end. It’s available at Amazon.com.