Fiercely uncompromising with equal allegiance to jazzy improvisation, funky backbeats and sonic experimentation, the audacious power trio Slaughterhouse 3 dwells in a place where fellow renegades like Garage a Trois, Bobby Previte & Charlie Hunter’s Groundtruther and jam band godfathers Medeski, Martin & Wood operate — right on that cutting edge between Sun Ra-inspired extrapolation and James Brown-inspired groovepower.
Anchored by the formidable rhythm tandem of drummer Kirk Covington and bassist Gary Willis (bandmates in Tribal Tech, one of the premier fusion groups of the past 20 years), Slaughterhouse 3 also introduces to fans of provocative, post-Bitches Brew electric music the gifted saxophonist Llibert Fortuny, who is fast emerging as one of the brightest young talents on Spain’s jazz scene. Armed with an arsenal of analog pedals and various digital gear, Fortuny deftly manipulates his sound to create loops, feedback, harmonic squeals and all manner of sonic mayhem in the mix. And no matter how far out Fortuny may take it, as on the experimental noise-thrash jam “Let’s Go” or the raucous “Slaughterhouse 3″ from the band’s killer self-titled debut, Covington and Willis hold down the fort with slamming backbeats and ultra-funky basslines.
From jagged abstractions like “Interactive Show” to ultra-funky J.B. paeans like “Toxic” or “Booty Duty,” Slaughterhouse 3 summons up white-hot intensity on top of thick, syncopated grooves, with tasty little ear cookies floating in and out of the mix, courtesy of Fortuny’s electronic tweakage. On the powerful “Moof” they deliver a kick that recalls classic Weather Report, with Fortuny playing Wayne Shorter to Covington’s Peter Erskine and Willis’ Jaco Pastorius. Then on “Trapeze” they play it more spacious and open-ended in the freewheeling manner of Sun Ra or his legion of avant garde followers. Willis, an electric bassist of unparalleled facility who has appeared on recordings by the likes of Wayne Shorter, Allan Holdsworth and Dennis Chambers, fuels the slow, shuffling “Stinky” with nasty Mu-Tron-inflected tones (reminiscent of his playing on Tribal Tech’s “Space Camel” from their 2000 outing, Rocket Science).
Once they hit the road in support of Slaughterhouse 3, this potent band of improvisers and groovemeisters promises to be a formidable presence on the avant jam-band scene.
Bill Milkowski is a regular contributor to Jazz Times, Jazziz, Bass Player, Modern Drummer and Absolute Sound magazines. He is also the author of “JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius” (Backbeat Books).