As long as there are university music programs, there will be jazz funk groups, though I have no idea if the members of the Andy Pizzo Project or Bodesattva are music school grads or not. With Bouncin’ and Arrival as evidence, it certainly sounds like they could be, what with all the reasonably good musical taste, the well-developed chops, the moderate musical ambition and the slightly faceless playing. No one puts too much at risk when soloing, but both bands show a lot of promise in very different ways.
The Andy Pizzo Project is actually Baton Rouge-based, even if the scary cover painting (Really, musicians—you’ve all bought enough CDs to know what a good cover looks like. Poor cover art makes it look like you don’t take your art seriously. Cost is no excuse.) places Pizzo in front of the Superdome. The city is the spiritual home of Bouncin’, most obviously on “Blues for Ben,” a slightly generic brass funk workout that features Pizzo and Mark Mullins on dueling trombones. The band settles in the groove, and as a soloist, Pizzo’s got some fire. Those qualities carry the funk, all of which could use a little more imagination, but the album shifts gears pleasantly and slows down into a more straightforward jazz mode with Pizzo’s “Manhattan” and Monk’s “Well You Needn’t.” The latter takes on a fusion tinge and features a ripping solo by guitarist Patrick Bordelon.
The three song snippets near the end of the album would have been better distributed throughout, but they show some nice musical imagination, breaking from the tyranny of the full group to present small, sound-oriented pieces. When that sort of innovative thinking manifests itself in Pizzo’s songwriting, the group could be more than just a good time.
Bodesattva’s strength is Pizzo’s weakness. The soloists could stand to develop some character, but the compositions are consistently smart and a little risky, stepping solidly into world beat with “Vaguely African” and turning a noir soundtrack into a tango in “Late Summer Sweater’s Ball.” Pianist Dave Brisson and guitarist Joshua Titford flirt with dissonance on that track, but it sounds comfortable on the same album as “And the Beat Goes On,” which could pass for a Blue Note-sampled track featuring rapper 5th Child.
A lesson—much like the cover art lesson—that young bands must learn is to recognize that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. If Bodesattva can do everything else it does, it’s no surprise it can play a blues, at least formally. But musically, it’s the least inspired track on the album and as a singer, David Bode is a fine sax player. That aside, Arrival is a very promising album, and if jazz funk is going to be the sound of our future, at least it seems to be arriving in promising forms.