Around the world and back again, most noble jazz-metallers report from the road.
Fusion is supposed to be fascinating, it’s not fashioned to be fun, but say so to this hairy bunch, and they will flick another “f”-word in your face. Actually, they do that – in “Blues Fuckers” which gets a pride of place on a visual portion of their last tour’s document – and here lies the whole beauty of THE ARISTOCRATS’ operation: the trio, true to their name’s provenance, are irreverent to the norm and don’t take themselves seriously. It doesn’t get in the way of the players’ fantastic technique, while their immaculate mastery of instruments doesn’t, in turn, get in the way of their pieces’ melodicism – not for nothing the band refer to their vocalless compositions as “songs.”
All of it is very lyrical in a live situation, where jokes are abound, yet these go beyond drummer Marco Minnemann’s theatrical clowning, as caught on camera, or guitarist Guthrie Govan’s story behind the riffy glide of “Gaping Head Wound,” and spice up the drift in the form of brief quotes. There is “Axel F” inserted into “Get It Like That” and “La Cucaracha” delivered strictly on percussion to result in standing ovation from Mexican public. That drum solo finds Govan and bassist Bryan Beller, who expand the ensemble’s palette by often crossing into each others dynamic range, sitting on a stage admiring their colleague’s art, and the document sees the trio tread the stages of various sizes getting the same admiration from their audience. Still, no matter how much rubber pig and chicken are used for additional showmanship and aural performance, the focus is on the “in the moment” vigor of elegance.
In concert, every track breathes and reveals more layers than its studio original – for further comparison, a couple of demos for the “Culture Clash” album is thrown in here as bonuses – and one should go no further than the DVD-only “Furtive Jack” or CD-consigned “Sweaty Knockers,” a rather romantic wah-wah-ed track “about tits,” to witness it. But the rockabilly in “Louisville Stomp” opens up a heightened telepathic vibe between the three artists before they go me(n)tal for “Living The Dream” as if to demonstrate the clash whence THE ARISTOCRATS’ magic is born. This riveting package is one frantic, fervent, feverish fountain of fantasy, and a master class on all fronts.