Justice on a Budget

NCM East Records, USA - CD

As Lenny Bruce used to say, "New is good!" It's for that reason we hear that 'twelve is the new eleven,' or 'jam bands are the new fusion music' (that word again!!). Well, fusion was about texture as much as it was about melody or how fast one could solo, so since the jammers' sense of improv often rests on the idea of a groove (see Disco Biscuits, Deep Banana Blackout) and its many forms, we could say Justice on a Budget are certainly part of that scenario. If needed be. I think of them more as not too far removed from Medeski, Martin and Wood (keyboard trio format, and a varied sense of electronic colors such as "Satellite Maia"'s and "Morongo"'s Latin extensions, followed on by the gamelan/ ring-modulated GET UP WITH IT - era Miles Davis sonority of "Wednesday is the New Thursday") and you'll be in the neighborhood.

Tasty and highly diverting on a minute-by-minute basis, the band's arrangement sense can be 'clever but not too' (note how the glued-on writing for wind section decays and reforms in "Yangtze"), often startling (the fuzz-heavy Wurlitzer organ and the muscular bass opening "Bait" certainly made me sit bolt upright). I will say JOAB's penchant for arranging opposes any accent towards compostion on the long form, but most probably if you're into them, that won't matter. The waves of differing flavors from track to track become the point, and they're very cagily thought out.

. Relentlessly tonal as well, the trio (John Conahan, keyboards, voice; Eric Hastings, drums, programming; Cory Neale, bass, turntables) meld the tunes one into another, and Jazz syncopation does enter via the side door here and there ("A Night in Flourtown" twists "A Night In Tunisia" with no small wit), and the play-off of keyboard versus saxophones will remind some of Rob Mounsey's charts for Steely Dan in the late '70s and early '80s; thankfully Hastings' percussion is far more invetive and elastic than the drummers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen used to hire.

Yeah, not exactly fare for Sun Ra fans (another artist who understood how to play forms off against one another), butworth your lunch money.

by Kenneth E.gbert