Per Wikipedia, jazz rock fusion is defined as a “musical genre that developed in the late 1960s from a mixture of elements of jazz such as its focus on improvisation with the rhythms and grooves of funk and R&B and the beats and heavily amplified electric instruments and electronic effects of rock”. One highlight of last weeks Art A Whirl was a performance at FOCI Glass by the band Tortuga!. Tortuga! has a singular and inspiring take on the Jazz Rock genre.
Aaron Biggar’s drumming provides foundation and color. His rhythms can be both surprisingly powerful and subtle. With Shawn Maroney on Bass, these two complete an exceptional rhythm section. Maroney contributes to the ground on which this group builds their musical structures, while adding flourish and interest throughout the set. Cory Jesok, on guitar, provides texture, rhythm, and blazing solo work, creating space or density just when it is required. P.J. Tracy, on piano, asserts melodies, harmonic support and furious solos of his own, traveling through multiple styles within the same tune.
For a band that is clearly comfortable with improvisation, Tortuga!’s music is very song centric. While capable of evoking the spirit of Bands like Phish or The Dead, Tortuga! is definitely not a “jam band”. Their tunes have melodies and recognizable, sometimes complex, harmonic structures that blend and straddle the sounds of psychedelic rock, jazz, funk and world music. The sound this group produces is coherent, dynamic, modern and exciting. Piano, electric bass, electric guitar, and drums all combine to invoke a musical experience that is simultaneously familiar and surprising. It is amazing to witness a quartet that can conjure the sound of early 70s Pink Floyd, Horace silver, arena rock, Massive Attack, and Michelle Camillo’s experiments with Flamenco.
Tortuga! is capable of weaving this tapestry of influences while providing a complete and very satisfying set.