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Published: 1999/01/15
by Dave Rioux

Jive Talkin’ Robots: Superheroes

When I first popped in this CD I wasn’t particularly engrossed by the music, but could hear the quality of musicianship itching to be released. The opening cut “Limpy” is a hyperactive song reminiscent of Phish’s “Llama” in tempo, but with disconnected lyrics; not so much sung, as spoken over tight changes and fast turns.

However, as the next song started, the music opened up to me. Filled with the laid back, extended jazz jams I am attracted to. There is some real talent here. The bass playing was the most powerful example of this. Tom Nunes’ playing sets down a backbone without sacrificing creativity. Whereas Joe Cunningham’s melodic, yet explorative saxophone style sets a wonderful tone that could range from being the grounding centerpiece to creating colorful backgrounds and moodscapes.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that Gabriel Johnson’s guitar work, while being poignant and introspective, didn’t try to take control. Instead, blended in to the whole, helping to create a seamless tapestry. His is a refreshing change from what can sometimes be an egotistical position in the band.

Jeff Baxter and Andrew Love, respectively on keyboards and drums, are last but by no means least. Their ability to keep time, however flexible, as well as to set the tone makes them indispensible in this collection.

The sum total of all of these elements is a group of guys with very little desire for center ring, instead playing as a whole band, with the ability to turn on a dime in unison. As is apparent in “Planet Leo”, all the while bringing along Sonny Giver for an intriguing saxophone duet.

As fine a collection as this disc is, it is not without it’s flaws: “Tragedy on Windsor Street” is a fun song, but shouldn’t have been included on this CD, I felt it broke the groove I was in, forcing me down before the trip was over.

In the end, I found myself relating to some of my musical roots, being reminded of such Garcia ensembles as “The Legion of Mary” or “Reconstruction”. Or even, at times, some of Coltrane’s earlier stuff; jazzy and full of life, bordering on experimentation.

Superheroes is a wonderful find, put together by some true virtuosos. Leading me back to conclude; these guys are good.

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