For a jazz player growing up in the 1970s, fusion, funk and rock were pretty unavoidable musical companions. A generation of British jazzers including drummer Jeremy Stacey looked to Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, The Crusaders, Weather Report, Return To Forever and even Parliament/Funkadelic for their jazz ‘standards’ almost as much as they did Miles, Mingus and Coltrane. Although in recent years Stacey has made the move to straight rock in a far more committed fashion than most, playing with the likes of Sheryl Crow, The Black Crowes and Noel Gallagher, this regular 606 gig serves as a high-class ‘woodshedding’ session where like-minded players can let their hair down and jam.
Tonight Stacey was joined by superstar bassist Pino Palladino, fine young keyboardist Ross Stanley, saxophonist Ed Jones, percussionist Miles Bould and brother Paul Stacey on guitar for a very hot and well-attended session of funky fusion. Herbie Hancock is the unofficial godfather of this kind of complex yet always accessible music, so it was fitting that his ‘Watermelon Man’ should open proceedings. Stanley did a fine job of approximating Hancock’s kaleidoscopic, richly-chorded Fender Rhodes, and Ed Jones’ incisive alto sax almost out-sparkled Bennie Maupin. Stacey and Palladino set up a tantalising less-is-more groove and Paul Stacey cleaned up with his Scofield-like phrasing and biting tone.
The enduring Wayne Shorter/Weather Report classic ‘Elegant People’ was another winner with tenor sax heroics from Jones while ‘Fred’ saw Stacey conjure up some jazz/rock fury from behind the kit, a fine homage to Tony Williams. The Crusaders’ ‘Hustler‘ also seemed perfectly suited for this band with its stinging guitar/sax melody and Stanley’s soulful Rhodes. John Scofield’s funky soul-jazz standard ‘Do Like Eddie’ developed into a virtuoso Hammond organ feature for Stanley, and Stacey J stayed faithful throughout to one of the all-time great Blue Note backbeats. And the closing burn through Herbie Hancock’s epochal ‘Actual Proof‘ was simply electrifying, with the Stacey brothers jostling for space and Jones getting stuck into a shuddering extended solo.
All in all, a seriously enjoyable night of multi-layered and challenging but always approachable jazz, rock and funk. The only thing possibly missing was a bass feature for Palladino who might have been let loose on one of the set’s more open-ended pieces. Keep your eyes peeled for the next Stacey brothers shakedown.