Cobblestone Jazz: 23 Seconds

Improvising jazz-techno trio Mathew Jonson, Tyger Dhula, and Danuel Tate previously preferred to let their high-energy live Cobblestone Jazz performances do the talking but the release of their two-disc debut 23 Seconds obviously shows a change of heart. The loose approach the Canadian group favours in concert has been retained, however, as the set's studio material was recorded live to two-track tape with arrangements conceived on the fly (“Slap the Back” was created and mixed in less than an hour). While such efficiency is laudable, the recorded material—especially when there's two discs of it—sometimes sounds too loose; one can get away with jamming in a live setting but such waywardness doesn't succeed quite so well on record, and it doesn't help when tracks are commonly in the seven- to eight-minute range. That said, it's also easy to succumb to the music's many charms, such as the bubbly dance grooves the trio stokes so fervently throughout, not to mention the tracks' perpetually morphing beat patterns, funky synth melodies, vocoder touches, and surging bass lines. Interestingly, though listening to Cobblestone Jazz's material on headphones is contrary to its dance-oriented spirit, the music's subtleties stand forth more vividly when listened to immersively.

Beatless lounge chords in the opener “Waiting Room” ooze that calm-before-the-storm feel and, sure enough, the opening disc achieves lift-off when “Hired Touch” rolls out its slippery, bass-driven funk. Other disc one highlights include the delectably strutting “Lime In Da Coconut,” “PBD,” a gloriously swinging, light-speed slice of classic Detroit techno, and the title song, whose breezy keyboard funk and lightly skipping beats prove appealing too. Though “Saturday Night” and “Peace Offering” overstay their welcome, the first half concludes on a high with the trance-funk throwdown “W” and its delicious vocoder hooks. The second half's dominated by the live set recorded on May 10th, 2007 in Madrid, but the twelve- and fourteen-minute cuts that follow (the skanky funkateer “Dump Truck” and the hypnotically percolating epic “India in Me”) are hardly shrinking violets. In truth, though the forty-minute live take accurately conveys the trio's fluid concert style, it verges on redundant when some of the material (“W,” “Dump Truck”) already appears elsewhere on 23 Seconds. Not surprisingly, then, we're confronted as usual with a two-disc set that with some judicious editing and pruning would've satisfied more as an easily-digestible single CD.

November 2007