KHU.ÉEX’, WOOch. Bittersweet brilliance. The sweet comes from the rump-shaking grooves created via R&B, funk, ambient soundscapes, and the lyrics and spoken word of Indigenous peoples from the Pacific Northwest, particularly Alaska. The bitter comes with the knowledge that this was the last recording project of legendary keyboardist and band co-founder Bernie Worrell, who passed away just three months after these sessions were started in early 2016. Bassist and fellow band co-founder Preston Singletary, Skerik (saxophones), and Captain Raab (guitars) make the most of the tracks Bernie left behind, establishing airtight grooves and melodies amongst the organs and clavinets. The album’s title has a dual meaning, as the word itself translates to “together” in the Tlingit language, as well as recognizing Worrell for his nickname, the Wizard of WOO. A triple LP effort, WOOch is a two-hour journey most worthy of taking again and again.
HEDVIG MOLLESTAD TRIO, Ding Dong. You’re Dead. Playful and potent, bombastic and brilliant. This powerful trio brings forth another helping of innovative fusion for listeners to absorb. Mollestad’s tangy tone invokes Mahavishnu, King Crimson, metal, blues, and other soundscapes in between, all while sounding like none of them. The rhythm section is no doubt among the most adaptable out there, more than capable of keeping up with their leader to establish grooves that lead to the creation of one of the more dynamic records of 2021. Anyone seeking a slightly out of the ordinary musical adventure is well served to make a stopover here.
KICK THE CAT, Gurgle. It doesn’t get much more fun than Kick the Cat. The music is controlled mayhem in a fusion-driven package, calling on and modernizing past luminaries of the genre. Guitarist Chris Siebold is firmly in control of his Frank Zappa influences, performing fretboard wizardry worthy of Frank’s finest “stunt guitarists.” Drummer Kris Meyers (Umphrey’s McGee) nimbly brings his best jam-driven chops forward, while bassist Chris Clementine and keyboardist Vijay Tellis-Nayak run amok within the mix. The album is serious music from artists clearly not taking themselves too seriously. Rather, they prefer to let it all hang out and let the wind take them wherever it chooses, be it strictly composed or not.
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell.
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That Hedvig Mollestad album is nice. Some inventive track titles there. Fans of the Two Ronnies will have been tickled by “Four Candles”.