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Second Movement
Second Movement
Warmer Records

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.

-Jon Murray

Track Listing:
1. Featherweight
2. Batween Tha Sheetz
3. Moonlight Weightbelt
4. The Hup
5. Spellbound
6. Anything But Reason
7. Ev'ry Man A King
8. Mid-February Stress Test

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