LETTUCE — Live in Tokyo (review)

LETTUCE — Live in Tokyo album cover Live album · 2004 · Funk Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
js
People who like their funky jazz with a lot of pyro-technical fusion type skills and high energy virtuoso solos will find much to like in this live album by Lettuce. Although Lettuce is often grouped with other acid jazz and jam bands that came up through the new century, they are much more skilled than their contemporaries and have more in common with classic funky fusion bands like The Brecker Brothers, early Billy Cobham and Tower of Power. After a brief intro number, second cut “Nyack” establishes what this band is capable of. As the different band members spin off rapid fire solos, the rest of the large ensemble engages in a dense interplay of syncopated figures that sounds like a tornado of interlocking rhythms. This band’s ability to have all members firing at once and not step on each other’s toes is remarkable. Just pick any moment in this song and listen to how busy every member is, its hard not to be impressed that this is the top live funk jazz act today.

Lettuce is a large and loose ensemble made up artists who are often active in other bands including John Scofield’s band and Soulive. For “Live in Tokyo” Lettuce has a three horn frontline backed by a rhythm section that includes two interlocking rhythm guitarists. All of the soloists are great, but alto saxophonist Sam Kininger stands out with his energetic punchy riffs that recall funk saxophone greats like Maceo Parker and Benny Maupin. On “The Dump”, he and tenor player Ryan Zoidis trade short solos that build to a feverish pitch. Lettuce’s use of two rhythm guitarists is very effective, on “Squadlive” they lay down infectious hooks that recall the classic sound of James Brown’s early 70s band.

If you like high energy funky fusion albums like Cobham’s “Shabazz” or Herbie’s “Thrust” album, you will probably enjoy this very remarkable live set.
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