Eclecticism – Drawing from a plethora of grooves/styles from around the world.
The above definition of the title of the first release from fo/mo/deep is provided on the back cover of the group’s new CD. Also included on the CD cover is a self-characterization by fo/mo/deep that reads “An Eclectic Groove Oriented – Funky Jazz Collective.” That assessment is concise and sums up their mission astutely. fo/mo/deep is a vibrant jazz collective which utilizes their dynamic rhythm section to keep the heat turned up to maximum fervor throughout. They flourish equally well on a couple original compositions as well as select choices for cover selections. Andre Scott, a skilled and powerful drummer, helps force the robust rhythms forward with potent brawn and committed vigor. On bass, Ron “FatKat” Holmes Jr. is also a stellar contributor, exceptionally adept at using his instrument to help buttress a beefy foundation as well as stepping to the forefront to bravely scout the way. Kenneth “Pounce” Pouncy on percussion completes this expert rhythm trifecta.
An example of the groove oriented funk found on Eclecticism is provided right out of the gate on “Drinks@8.” Kevin Jones plays energetic keyboard streams that serve as an appendage to a spirited dialogue between the trombone of N. Michael Goecke and the tenor saxophone yielded by Keith Newton. The solid, mid-tempo rhythm groove on this one is pure delight and serves as an example of how a top-grade rhythm section meshes together via a scheme of ultra-tight cohesiveness to function faultlessly.
The slower tempo on Nat Adderley’s “Hummin’” allows Goecke an opportunity to make a tart sassy trombone statement and Ron Holmes, Jr. to impressively demonstrate his stand-up bass chops. “Kiggundu’s Bazaar” embraces the atmosphere of a bustling African bazaar with the horn section trumpeting with elephant-like calls and emulating vendors hawking their wares. The bouncy keyboards of Kevin Jones provide added seasoning, as do the various background clamoring effects supplied by Darrell Jones. Yet again, the rhythm teamwork shines with added backing from Ron Hope on congas, all contributing to give the song a strong sense of adventure.
A cover of ex-Miles Davis member Lonnie Liston Smith’s “Expansions” appears first with a vocal that is mutually sung and sung-spoken and espouses the need for peace on Earth with the expansion advocated taking place inside one’s mind. The philosophy declared on this 70s song that if you expand your mind to the acceptance of love of all mankind your heart will surely follow remains relevant today. The song begins with a bass solo, which is soon joined by rapid-fire drumming, flashy flute fireworks and impressive displays on organ. The quickened pace on the instrumental rendition of “Expansions” that follows later on the disc allows multiple members of the fo/mo/deep ensemble to show off their musical savoir faire with abundant soloing as well as en masse execution.
Another successful cover appears with Charlie Hunter’s “Mitch Betta’ Have My Bunny.” The ultra-funky Ron Holmes, Jr. penned “Slap That Thang,” features a first-rate rhythm melody with flanking support coming from guitar, saxophone and trombone. It cooks at a slow boil, simmering with horn flavored spice that satisfies totally. “Slap That Thang” assuredly has to be one of their premier showcases when it is presented in concert.
The final two songs are performed live, exhibiting the power and excitement that this ensemble can muster away from the recording studio and in front of an audience. The venue for this enthused performance was the 2010 Columbus Arts Festival. “Giant FONKY Steps” is needless to say a respectful tribute to John Coltrane’s standard “Giant Steps,” a tune long used by jazz musicians to display their skills at improvisation. Improvising is one of fo/mo/deep’s foremost gifts. Jones’s keyboards take on some of the characteristics of a melodica, Newton’s sax-work is inspired, and the entire group takes pleasure in providing a fun-laced musical history lesson. The group’s live take on Hunter’s “Mitch” outshines their previous offering of the tune, due to the increased spontaneous flow. Guided by “Fatkat,” the group wails away with a passion and technical expertise that is exceptional.
The auspicious debut of fo/mo/deep is exhilarating music. Eclecticism whets the appetite for more, much more. As the legendary great Miles Davis once said “jazz music has to have that thing.” I believe that Miles would agree: Eclecticism has it.