Phil Bowler & Pocket Jungle starts out with The Set-Up in the coolest bass / drums pep-snap in order to jump-start the choppily segmented nature of the song making its way through oases, interludes, and funky jitter-stepping. Paul Carlon first Paul Desmonds his way into the mix, smooth and sweet, melodious with a bit of sass, but later Dewey Redmans things up a bit, a trifle unorthodox and abstruse. Guitarist Pete Smith, quiet and chordally moded all the while, eventually maneuvers through the rostrum with a funky 70s Kudu / Motown line that turns into old Harvey Mandel work circa Shangrenade and other of Harv's classic old fusion gigs. From all that, it should be obvious that band leader Bowler and his crew aren't exactly constrained by loyalties to genre standards—no one on the Zoho label is, for that matter, and this is a Zoho release.
Speaking of Desmond, Carlon wrote Time In (echoing Brubeck's old masterpiece Time Out LP…which was succeeded by a Time In as well) and further exhibits his baseline wont, with a bit of Mulligan and sporadic intrusions of Barbieri. Smith grabs an acoustic six-string to Spaniardize the Brazilian atmosphere as deputy drummer Scott Latzky, appearing on three cuts, rolls jungley backpatter around and around, sticks punctuating the susurrations like sunlight sparkling off water. Bowler, though constrained to the backgrounding the bass guitar inevitably occupies, fills up the chestnut Old Devil Moon with a ceaselessly perambulating growling rumble-chatter, later stepping into the spotlight in Bobby Hutcherson's West 22nd Street Theme with a throaty lazy solo paving the way for set of Smith improvs.
Believe it or not, this is the band's reunion outing after a two-decade absenture from the New York jazz scene. Bowler meanwhile copped a Grammy and played with Roland Kirk, Wynton Marsalis, Toninho Horta, Horace Silver, and a host of others. My favorite cut unsurprisingly is the Steve Coleman composition Wight Waits for Weights. I loves me some Coleman, I certainly does, and was knocked out by his & Greg Osby's Strata Institute / M-Base Collective, but the selection as covered by Pocket Jungle packs a 70s styled fusion punch I hadn't divined from the rest of the CD, solid as hell and gritty while inventive. In fact, it tells me that fusion on this order might well be the band's real métier, despite all the great stuff here, and, man o man, would I ever love to hear full-on fusion gig from these cats next time around.
Lastly, on that concluding cut, Bill "Beaver" Bausch, Pocket Jungle's resident percussionist, turns in a truly great run-through, Latzky providing tablas in accompaniment. Bausch is a striking sticksman and the group minus his presence would be a much different ensemble. In fusion mode, though, the mouth waters even more to think what would happen in his hands.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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