Jon Batiste, Chad Smith & Bill Laswell, The Process (M.O.D. Technologies)

With its synthesis of rock, funk, fusion and hip hop, The Process is identifiable as a Bill Laswell project from the first notes.

Bassist/producer Laswell has been making and remixing this kind of music for two decades as his remixes of ’70s Miles Davis, work with Bernie Worrell and Herbie Hancock, and his own bands Material, Praxis, and Last Exit attest.

Here he teams up with New Orleans-born keyboardist Jonathan Batiste and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith for heavy, tribal-esque, modern-sounding improvised tracks. Recently, Batiste has been working to re-popularize jazz for the masses, and this is an excellent step for that. His keyboard work has echoes of Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Joe Jackson while still maintaining his own identity, and he more than holds his own among these heavy hitters twice his age.

Smith shows his versatility and strength throughout the record with his command of the various grooves here. His playing hints at the alternate universe that the Red Hot Chili Peppers could have conquered if they had decided to go further into the funk and less into their recent frat-boy pop.

The music here is heavy without being too dense. Guest trumpeter and Peter Brotzmann collaborator Toshinori Kondo contributes great Miles-like smears on “Haunted” and saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum combines with vocalists/rappers Killah Priest and Garrison Hawk to transform “Turn on the Light/Ascent” from modern club hit into a searing, sexy, soaring-saxophone rager.

Amid the thunder, Batiste also has some softer interludes that allow the record to ebb and flow. For Laswell and Smith fans, this record fits well with their reputations, but it lets listeners hear an under-recognized side of Batiste that also confirms his virtuosity.