It’s a mistake to believe just because music has elements of improvisation, or even has large improvised sections within its structure, it can be called jazz. Certainly nobody would believe the music of Carlos Santana to be jazz, even though he performs large improvised solos. And even though his recording The Swing Of Delight was recorded with jazz musicians, there is no mistaking his solos as being jazz. The same holds true for the instrumental work of guitarist Eric Clapton. Even smooth jazz is not jazz 95% of the time. It is really instrumental R&B, and most of the artists working in that arena will confirm this. So to the music on Ego Band’s debut CD is also not jazz.
This Seattle based keyboard and drum duo styles itself as a "world bound" ensemble. What these two musicians, Ty Bailie (keyboards) and Jacques Willis (drums, vibraphone, devastator), really play is instrumental rock, and there is no mistaking their music for jazz. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Their music is heavy on chilled-out locked-in rhythmic patterns which they can then morph into extended jams. In this way they seem to borrow liberally from Phish, even down to the two-chord based harmonic underpinnings so common in much of Phish’s jamming.
Flatbush, for example, begins with some shifting rhythmic grooves before it settles down into the keyboard two-chord jam. Bailie, as a soloist, is definitely close to developing a personal style but the narrowness of the changes and his want to not roam far from them tie him in. Willis then follows this up with some exciting drum work above Bailie’s rockish repeated syncopated montuno-ish vamp.
As rockers this group is pretty good. They don’t settle for the cliché - at least too often - and it’s obvious they are interested in making their music different and separate from any pop leanings. Like the 70s band Auracle, Ego Band doesn’t allow their music to alight in one feel for too long. This is all good, and it should be noted they’re both fine musicians - it’s just not jazz. Think a totally instrumental version of the Ben Folds Five mixed with the groove-oriented inclination of Phish simmered with some divergent rhythmic jaunts and you’ll know exactly what this group is all about.