POWER TOOLS

Eclectic Fusion • United States
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This was a strange meeting. A one-time gathering of greats, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Melvin Gibbs and drumming legend Ronald Shannon Jackson. You would think with these guys (and that band name) that there might be some intense jazz/funk head-butting going on here, but the largely improvisational trio made a point of downplaying the obvious, offering up atmospheric, tonal coloring in place of loud, frenzied mania. To be honest, expectations may have undermined PT’s impact. Gibbs’ Defunkt resume and Shannon Jackson’s balls-out freeform outfit, Last Exit, were still fresh in people’s minds, while Frisell’s avant garde chops were about to get a sturdy workout in John Zorn’s Naked City. How Power Tools shoehorned Frisell’s languid, almost psychedelic musings into Jackson’s tough to contain propulsion is a study in restraint. Though, they do get dirty, as the controlled freak-out in the middle of the 9 minute live opener, “Blame & Shame,” read more...
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POWER TOOLS Strange Meeting album cover 3.93 | 3 ratings
Strange Meeting
Eclectic Fusion 1987

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POWER TOOLS Strange Meeting

Album · 1987 · Eclectic Fusion
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js
Power Tools was sort of the Blind Faith of 80s jazz rock, a super group that put out only one album, as if only to show us what they could achieve before disbanding. Bill Frisell was the new jazz rock superstar on guitar via his work with Naked City and his solo albums, Ronald Shannon Jackson's militaristic drum-line approach revolutionized jazz rock drumming in his work with Ornette's Prime Time as well as Last Exit, and in the spirit of 80s NYC punk-jazz, bassist Melvin Gibbs was punk enough for gigs with Henry Rollins, and technical enough for Eddie Palmieri. The three together were incredibly intense, but this trio was far from an avant- garde noise blowout, instead they were often capable of sublime sensitivity and tense calm. Frisell is more or less the leader here, and his phenomenal guitar technique is more than up for the task. Sometimes soft and lyrically expressive like a lap pedal-steel, Bill's guitar seems too fluent to be a guitar. At other times he stings with a compressed distorted sound that recalls Terje Rypdal bordering on David Gilmour or Jimi Hendrix. The music this trio makes varies from bittersweet impressionistic melodies to full on sonic assaults driven by Jackson's muscular drumming. A typical recipe for some of their best tunes involves a melancholic melody whose changes are repeated in a format known to jazz musicians. As the chords come around the band becomes increasingly abstract, expressive and busy as they drive the initial melody through some harsh deconstruction. Their original tune, 'Howard Beach Memoir', is especially gripping as the band recreates the harrowing racial incident the tune is named for with a lonely opening melody followed by a purposefully hopeless improv that can't connect. On another successful track, maudlin chestnut 'Unchained Melody' loses it's sentimental 'chains' and takes on new life under the Power Tools approach.

One of the very best jazz rock records that came out in the 80s, this record is highly recommended. Power Tools joins Quiet Sun and Blind Faith as one of those bands that should have put out way more than one record.

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