If you’ve never heard of the band Garage A Trois, let me define the ingredients that go into this audio stew: Skerik on saxophones; Marco Benevento on piano and keyboards; Stanton Moore, drummer extraordinaire; Mike Dillon on vibes. If you know of their work as individuals or the countless jamming and session work they’ve done in the last decade or so, then you should already be a fan of Garage A Trois. If not, and the concept of these four guys joining each other in the studio is just too much, let me welcome you to “too much”, but in in a good way.
Power Patriot (Royal Potato Family) is an album created by a band who have expanded from their trois set-up that they started out as. Charlie Hunter left a few years ago but has been replaced by the incredible Marco Benevento, and the new chemistry found within is perfect, as their style of jazz goes above and beyond what is expected. That is to be expected since these guys are incredible improvisational musicians, and the kind of spontaneity can be felt and experienced on this new album, which begins with two psychotic tracks that may loosely be called psychedelic jazz. Or if not psychedelic, it definitely combines hints of electronic influences with distortion and rock, to where it doesn’t sound like jazz at all. “Rescue Spreaders” does indeed sound like a rescue mission, as if you get a chance to hear rage, anxiety, anticipation, fear, and strength through music. One is literally sitting on the edge of their seat trying to take it all in and just as it feels it could continue, the band pull a complete 180 and create something with a bit of pop flavor, as if Elton John decided to come into the studio and say “I’d like to join you, mates.” You’ll hear something that sounds like a saxophone, but then it moves into a layer of distortion and it sounds and is played like a guitar. You hear something that sounds like a bass guitar, but is it a synth, or the vibraphone, or something else? You know who’s on this but you smile at the fact that you’re hearing sounds that aren’t in the credits. Imagine if Jazzanova or Jaga Jazzist found some incredible ludes and decided to share it between each other.
The most surprising song is “Purgatory”, which actually starts out moody and maybe melancholy, or maybe it’s trying to set-up the situation. About a minute or so in, it gets dark and ugly and now it’s as if these guys turned into a stoner/sludge metal band.
What you’ll also find throughout Power Patriot is an electronic soundscape, which isn’t dominant but it sounds nothing like what you’d expect from anything in jazz. You’ll hear sounds that could be from ancient 8-bit video games or cell phones, or reverbed elements that seem to last forever, or an electronic (even hip-hop) approach to the production that would make Madlib or The Angel fans proud. It’s mutated jazz, it’s freakish jazz, yet it goes over the rim to where it’s almost not jazz, and perhaps that’s what they were trying to do. That is, to boil over the top and see what drips and for how long and where.
Power Patriot is incredible as is, constructed in style and form that is similar to Gnarls Barkley‘s St. Elsewhere in terms of creativity and adventure. The ending sounds like an ending, but you want it to continue and never stop satisfying. To hear these four creative minds go at it like a militia is insane, and I’m certain that these songs in a live setting will be a much bigger honey-dipped mindfuck.