Radius Funk 2021
San Franciscan fusion ensemble hit the road without living their room to deliver fan favorites and fresh cuts in concert fashion.
Depicting a route into the future on a record cover during the times of pandemic speaks volumes of this trio’s optimism – and volume has always been something the Bay Area band thrived on, making it vital part of their creative method. Virus or not, the little collective didn’t stall when Covid arrived and, in the absence of audience perspective in November 2020, they played familiar tunes and new numbers live-in-a-studio, straightaway, with no overdubs. The result is performances of heightened immediacy and arresting depth that challenge the listener’s perception of sophisticated arrangements in an emotional-cum-cerebral setting.
Such an approach can also challenge the underlying principle of the ensemble’s latest album "Layers Of Meaning" where extra instrumental strata added details to overall aural image, yet a few tracks from that platter, including the finely nuanced “Raindance” – simultaneously stormy and calm – and “Twilight Dancer” with its expansive dynamics that are rooted in the musicians’ rapport. There’s also a couple of cuts from 2018’s "Ultraviolet Voodoo" – among these, the ever-energetic chug of “Mystic Train” – leaving only the Americans’ debut out of here-and-now scope.
Still, the first half of “Grit To Grace” finds the group further exploring rarely trodden paths of recently composed pieces which range from roaring to soothing – hence the record’s title – often within a single melodic entry, as suggested by “Phoenix Rising” whose caressing flow and exquisite filigree eventually bring forth a heavy riff. So if the scintillating strum and sway of opener “Sparkle Dust” feel simply enticing, and if Chris Rigatuso’s bass and Tom Metropoulos drums lull “Shields & Halos” into deceptive idyll for Brett Starczewski’s guitar to embroider with waywardly wondrous flurries of notes, “The Cavalry” has a muscular punch to its twang.
Unfortunately, this album seems too sterile in sonic terms to hit one between the eyes as live offerings are bound to do – otherwise, it’s immaculate.