I have to admit; the album cover threw me off. I never would have
pegged Second Movement as a jazz-funk combo based on their
collage of a barmaid serving drinks in the farming district of the
moon. Maybe funk, but not jazz.
Despite judging the album by its cover, I was pleased to find Second
Movement's self-titled debut a strong one. Established in New York
City in 2003, Second Movement is a quintet comprised of guitar, bass,
organ, drum, and alto sax. But, the band shouldn't be labeled strictly
a jazz band, nor is it solely a funk band. Through the course of the
album, Second Movement touches on jazz, acid-jazz, latin, fusion,
pop, funk and they even delve into some soft jazz territory. Which
is great if you're into soft jazz.
One thing is consistent: each song resonates a strong groove and
a jamband vibe that takes the place of a normal jazz solo. The strong
basslines initially catch your attention and make you listen a little
closer. But, it wouldn't be accurate to put Second Movement in the
same category as jazz-jam-funk band Galactic. Second Movement
elects to revisit composed, melodic structures in each song and keep
a reasonable leash on the jamming.
On most of the songs, the instruments are panned stereo left and
right. This accentuates the interplay between the guitar, horn,
and organ. The opening track, "Featherweight", is a great
example. Only six minutes into the first song, the band has already
found a nice groove before moving on to another style.
With a title like "Batween Tha Sheetz", you know you're
about to hear either hardcore rap or slippery funk. Funk it is. Alto
saxophonist David Caputo really digs in on this track. This
song is in the style of fellow New York, acid-jazz-funk hybrid, Soulive.
But, where Soulive has found a musical niche, Second Movement only
spends five minutes.
"Anything But Reason" provides the perfect soundtrack for
cruising the neighborhood or getting ready to go out on weekend. Guitarist
Mark Hanna does a Santana-tastic job on this one. Tracks
like this seems to define the intended direction of the band, as does
"Moonlight Weightbelt", which is driven by a pulsing bass
and a swirling Wurlitzer.
However, songs like "Spellbound" turn another direction.
This track sounds like it was ripped off of a Mark Goodson
game show. The instruments blend well
almost too well. It's
understandable to reinforce the melody line, but occasionally three
out of five instruments are playing the same hook, note for note.
The result sounds compressed, like a sampled horn section.
"Ev'ry Man A King" provides another quirky style of music.
The song starts off reminding you of a hidden world on Super Mario
3. Not long after, it reveals itself to be a goofy, fluffy track
that would fit well as a sitcom theme song. It's not surprising that
the band has already scored an indie feature.
Overall, the song composition is good, but at times, it seems the
band might be restricting itself by conforming to the melody lines.
There's a sense of anticipation for the next solo. And that's exactly
where Second Movement shines. It's during these fat solos, where the
group backs off, that give the songs space and texture.
You have to give Second Movement a lot of credit. They're not afraid
to experiment with different styles of music. There's also an unmistakable
energy to the group. Rhythmically, the album drives hard and I'll
bet they're great to see live. It's not surprising they'll be attending
South by Southwest this year. It will be interesting to see if they
eventually settle on a particular musical direction down the road
or if they keep on changing it up.
2. Batween Tha Sheetz
3. Moonlight Weightbelt
4. The Hup
6. Anything But Reason
7. Ev'ry Man A King
8. Mid-February Stress Test
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