At this time of year, any funky jazz album with hardly any ballads is a Mardi Gras album by default. There aren’t any familiar Indian chants or carnival chestnuts on this disc, but its festive feel and occasional second line rhythms make it a shoe-in for the seasonal playlist.Buy on Amazon
Keyboardist and composer Mike “Rhino” Rihner originally released this disc under a different title nine years ago; for this reissue he’s made the carnival-themed opener the title track (He’s also amended the name of the band from the Rhino Acoustic Project—fair enough, since this is very much an electric band). Rihner’s main strength here is his ability to invoke familiar moods and rhythms, only to use them as jumping-off points for creatively flowing melodies and improvs—and he keeps most of the tracks in the four-minute range so everyone says something tasty and gets out.
On the title track he invokes Carnival without recycling a single Fess or Booker lick, but the modulation that starts his opening solo is an immediate grabber, and even Chris Severin’s bass solo is full of melodic twists. “Jumping Light Particles” is as much prog-rock as Mardi Gras, the energy level building until Doug Belote hits the double bass drums at the finale. “Crawfish Shuffle” has a swampy backbeat but a more elegant tune than you might expect from a piece with that title, and winds up harking back to Billy Cobham’s Spectrum period—not least because Rihner’s solo recalls Jan Hammer’s light touch with the Fender Rhodes. “The Tube” and “Gotter Funken” are the disc’s two excursions into straight funk, with a nod toward George Porter Jr. on the latter. But even here, Rihner’s knack for melody brings a certain headiness to the party.