Coalition of the Willing – Bobby Previte
Fusion is a funny thing.
Equally born out of In A Silent Way (1969) and Bitches Brew (1970), the nebulously delineated brainchild of Miles Davis eventually led to a slew of sonically similar albums recorded between 1969 and 1971 stocked with various Miles alum, including John McLaughlin’s Extrapolation, Tony Williams’ Emergency!, Weather Report’s 1971 self-titled debut, and Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner-Mounting Flame.
Despite the genre’s overarching ambiguity and inclusiveness, the blueprint that these seminal albums laid out — mixing the forms and techniques of jazz music with the electric instrumentation and styles of rock, funk, R&B, electronica and world music — has been replicated countless times over the past 35 years to varying degrees of success, most recently on drummer Bobby Previte’s newest Ropeadope Records’ release, The Coalition Of The Willing.
Though his history is rooted in of New York City’s Downtown jazz scene, Previte has resisted the natural inclination toward quoting specific licks or rhythms from his fusion forefathers, nor has he relegated the record to the genre’s initial jazz focus. Instead, the veteran drummer and avant-garde composer has created a more rock-oriented album that borrows more from Miles Davis’ A Tribute to Jack Johnson and the guitar-heavy James Blood Ulmer than any of the fusion pioneers.
The album-opening “The Ministry of Truth”, with its swirling Hammond B3 organ swells and tambourine rattles, makes you feel like you’re stepping into Triple Rock Baptist Church with Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues, but just when the Godfather of Soul should shout "Praise Jesus!” and women in hats reach for the heavens, Previte kicks into a four-on-the-floor backbeat that sends the tune kicking and screaming into a quasi-video-game-theme-song-meets-guitar-rock-anthem reminiscent of the old Hellborg/Lane/Sipe albums.
The racing, layered guitar riffs and clattering drumming that drive “Airstrip One” periodically break down — first into a bass/organ exchange involving Charlie Hunter and Jamie Saft, then into to a high-flying horns duel between trumpeter Steve Bernstein of Sex Mob fame and horn maniac Skerik — and ultimately land the tune in an On the Corner-esque funky groove.
“Ministry of Love” very well may be the funeral march for Ozzy Osbourne, drummer Stanton Moore and Previte’s booming drum fills matched only by Hunter’s Sabbath-heavy guitar riffs. The 12-string, John Fahey-like guitar excursion that opens “Oceania” gives the song a pleasant Eastern vibe while “The Inner Party” sounds like intergalactic blues, Hunter and Stew Cutler’s intertwining slide guitar anachronistically blending with the atmospheric groove led by Previte before grinding to a halt with Cutler’s haunting harp honks. “Memory Hole” kicks off sounding like an outtake from Radiohead’s Amnesiac, Previte riding his cymbals over Saft’s moody organ layers as a distant guitar that sounds a million miles away slides across an erratic landscape of percussive cacophony. Cutler’s harp rambles along casually before being corralled by Previte’s precise drumming as the band finds the first jazz-fusion groove of the record, Hunter’s sinewy guitar dancing with a ghostly trumpet solo by Bernstein.
It’s music for the night, for sure, but this ain’t your Uncle Albert’s acid jazz.