Polyrhythmics’ New Album ‘Man from the Future’ is Pure Color Red
The press release for the fifth full album from Seattle’s Polyrhythmics refers to the album’s title, Man from the Future, this way:
Slipping through the cracks of infinite timelines, the Man from the Future just can’t put his past behind him.
Polyrhythmics, an exciting horn-driven funk band that purports to dabble in their “hard-driving modern-afro-psycho-beat sound,” have just signed with Color Red, the incredible new endeavor from Eddie Roberts of The New Mastersounds featuring state-of-the-art studio facilities and the Color Red record label.
Pause for a bit of the past. During the ’50s and into the ’60s, there were a number of prominent jazz labels, including Atlantic, Columbia, Blue Note, and Prestige. Jazz buffs can tell you about the sound of those last two labels, because, although almost all the music for both was recorded by Rudy van Gelder (first at his Hackensack studio, then in Englewood Cliffs), the distinction — however slight — between the two labels owed to their producers. For Blue Note, that meant Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff; for Prestige, it meant Bob Weinstock.
And so it is with Color Red. Listen to The New Mastersounds, J.E.D.I. Johnston, Lucas de Mulder, WRD (Robert Walter, Eddie Roberts & Adam Deitch), Joey Porter Trio, Sal’s Greenhouse, Matador! Soul Sounds, or any of a number of great albums and singles on Color Red, and you will hear the unmistakable hand of Roberts at the controls.
This also goes for Polyrhythmics. The Color Red stamp is firmly upon Man from the Future, and that, my friends, is a wonderful thing. This new album is magnificent. Let’s meet Polyrhythmics first, then explore the album.
Polyrhythmics are: Ben Bloom, guitar; Grant Schroff, drums; Karl Olsen, percussion; Jason Gray, bass; Nathan Spicer, keyboards; Scott Morning, trumpet; Art Brown, tenor sax, flute; and Elijah Clark, trombone.
Man from the Future
Jason Gray’s bass thump accompanied by Grant Schroff’s drum open “Yeti Set Go,” then are joined by muted trumpet from Scott Morning and Nathan Spicer on clavinet. Spicer also has a fine electric piano interlude before the playful horns bounce around. Bloom’s solo and Spicer on electric piano help to recall Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters’ era fusion. What a killer opening!
“The Cutdown” is straight-up funk with a deep bass line. The horns often play as a powerful unit, so marvelously tight. There is a brief section where trumpet and tenor together bounce it back and forth with trombone. This gets a delicate treatment halfway through, guitar and electric piano with horn accents.
The choppy syncopation at the start of “Digital Cowboy” is a marked change from the first two tracks, bass, synth, and drums in charge. The tune smooths out, then returns to the chop, and Bloom’s solo is so tasteful. The horns are gorgeous. And that synth!
“In the Trees” features a reverbed guitar intro with bass. This is a beautiful ballad, all too short at 1:50. Spicer’s addition on Hammond B3 is perfect.
Schroff’s time is impeccable throughout the album and a standout here on “Chelada.” Similarly, percussionist Karl Olsen has been all over the album but sounds great here, especially on bells. Bloom has a lovely feature accented by muted trumpet. Then Art Brown on flute and Spicer on a Tubular Bells-sounding synth are intriguing, and Spicer lays a haunting synth layer over Bloom’s guitar figure, which then ramps up underneath the horn groove. This song was released as a single.
“Man from the Future” is dynamic soul jazz. B3, wah-wah guitar, and bass churn (Gray is a beast), driven by Schroff’s drums. Morning on trumpet (nice solo), Brown on tenor, and Elijah Clark on trombone are smokin’ hot, and Olsen’s percussion gives great depth to the tune. The groove is relentless. Brown also steps out on tenor.
There is more funk with “Corpus Colosseum.” This evokes the Brecker Brothers’ groove as the horn trio has the first word, with Spicer on clavinet. The tempo shifts down a gear as bass and electric piano stand out, Bloom abusing his wah-wah pedal in the background, and the horns close out the tune. These horn arrangements are outstanding.
“Man from the Future Reprise” is a short, funky return to the album theme, the only track without the horn trio. As with every track, the production makes you feel like you are right there in the studio with the band!
Name any of the great horn-driven funk bands you want. Polyrhythmics belong in that conversation!