BeebleBrox is a quintet from Indiana whose name I've heard floating around the "jam band" circles; if they haven't yet, you may find them opening for Phish or John Scofield one of these days. They're a Jazz-ier orientation than those other bands, or Deep Banana Blackout, have--- but BeebleBrox do, as those other bands will, construct infectious (if in BB's case, often laid-back and easy-rolling) riffs and carefully turn them inside out and back again with extended, yet well-thought-out soloing.
A 2CD live album may seem analogous to the Double Live LP conceit of the 1970s to us old folks but in the new era you may be talking 130 to 140 minutes of music as opposed to a mere 80. No fear there, as BeebleBrox have more than enough chops and good ideas to make the extended time fly by. This band comes off as very much a unit, though all the musicians have strong personalities: Tom Clark's sax recalls Michael Brecker in its uncomplicated sass, and I got a kick out of his off-quote of Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" at the end of the funky CD1 closer "Gateway." But I suspect the star here is Monika Herzig, who doesn't write much but whose synths and piano glue the band sound together.
On CD2's "Lost but Not Forgotten," her string synth envelops the warm-toned opening statement from guitarist Peter Kienle and once Clark has commented tartly Herzig submits an arresting, tightly controlled statement which Kienle downshifts out of like an Alfa Romeo. Oddly the very strong impression of Herzig's piano break remains throughout the remainder of the 7-minute tune (one of the shorter ones here). Jack Helsley enlivens on the bass Clark's out-statement, and his closing coda wraps the tune up with a moody flair.
My only real knock against BeebleBrox is their measured approach to song development: everybody takes their time about whatever they are doing, and although there's a reasonable breadth of tempi here there's never an air of urgency. But that may be the attitude they're shooting for, and if so, they've succeeded. "My Funny Glove Compartment" has a notably earthy wah-wah guitar line recalling Pat Martino around the time of his late 1970s JOYOUS LAKE record for Warner Brothers, and crisp drumming from Paul Surowiak; the patient listener who doesn't want "Art Now!" but will settle for it in five minutes will be rewarded. My own favorites here are CD2's "Homer Simpson" (I'd like to see the cartoon character shake his upholstered butt to this one), and two ballads, "Belonging" and "Half
Man, Half Broccoli." Those last feature some beautiful synthesized harmonica courtesy of Herzig and a melodic gift (thanks to former member Dan Vonnegut and to Kienle, respectively) that makes me recall Master Cylinder, a favorite Midwest short-lived phenom from the late 1970s. They did one record on Inner City called ELSEWHERE; good luck finding it!
BeebleBrox, however, will do very nicely, thank you. Be prepared to be in the listening room for a while. It'll be worth it.
by Ken Egbert
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