Fusik, POCKiT Heat Up Cool Night at Clearwater Jazz Holiday Wanderlust
Thanks to Trace Caley for the feature image and to Moises Linares and Angie Leonetti for the photos!
Two great tenor saxophone players, two great guitarists, two great bassists, two great drummers, and… just one great keyboard player. That barely begins to describe the superb night of fusion, funk, R&B, and jazz laid down by Fusik and POCKiT, two from a remarkable list of South Florida groups keeping this music alive and vibrant.
The two bands were performing in a series of shows hosted by Clearwater Jazz Holiday called Wanderlust. Those popped up last year when the pandemic cancelled the main CJH October event. These shows have been so popular that four more were scheduled for this fall, with more on the way for winter and spring. This one took placed Saturday, December 4.
POCKiT took the stage first, a brilliant trio who dig deep into jazz and jazz fusion. They offered up excellent original “T-1000” first, showing the tightness of their arrangements. Chip Gardner plays electric piano, organ, clavinet, and synths with equal relish. The rhythm section of Moises Linares, drums and Josh Walton, bass, play as a single organism. Next they tackled a tune by The Philadelphia Experiment titled “Grover.
At this point, they made it a quintet by inviting up Sebastian Pareja on electric guitar and Luigi Arredondo on tenor saxophone. It went from wonderful to more wonderful with the expansion as they tackled the great Medeski, Martin & Wood composition “Coconut Boogaloo.” The trio gave both gentlemen plenty of space to create, and create they did. Next they knocked out original “Hialeah Traffic.”
Everything was working, and the grooves were deep, Afro-Latin-infused. They introduced a brand new tune from their upcoming album called “Versa,” which was outstanding, as was “Mocoso” which followed. They invited bassist Jason Spencer of Fusik to sit in on “Driving Out” and crushed their finale, “No Headlights.” What a superb start to the evening under beautiful skies!
[POCKiT: T-1000, Grover, Coconut Boogaloo, Hialeah Traffic, Versa, Mocoso, Driving Out, No Headlights]
After a very short set break, Fusik took the stage. That keyboard player looked very familiar; it was in fact Chip Gardner, a member of both bands. This group tilts more toward funk and R&B, and they do it with style and some humor as well. This was a joyous set, and the dance party was ON!
After a brief warm-up, so described by Spencer, they launched into “Tight Work,” appropriately titled. This band has been working for two decades, and it was obvious they love what they do. Robert Smiley is a fine tenor saxophone player who colors every tune. Drummer Felix, like Linares before him, laid down incredible rhythms all set long, and Spencer was a treat to hear and watch!
Guitarist Antonio “Sanchez” Rivera handled lead vocals. It was a blast hearing and watching him as well, a dynamo bursting with energy. He sang “Cramp Your Style” and, after remembering the late Charles Bradley, really dug into “This Love Ain’t Big Enough for Two of Us.” After original “Florida Madness” (accurate), the group blew out a superb “It Ain’t No Use,” the Meters’ classic. My notes have disappeared, but this is where they invited Arredondo back up to double our tenor pleasure. He and Smiley worked perfectly together before Smiley stepped back to allow Arredondo to solo again.
Next up was the War bounce of “Me and Baby Brother,” Sanchez again on vocals, joined by Spencer. Spencer educated us about the many Florida funk classics that need our attention before they played one of those, a great tune called “Funky Fast Bump.” Next was a fabulous original called “Hunter” that gave everybody space to funky-fusion it up.
Chip Gardner picked up this set where he’d left off with POCKiT, more excellent keyboards of all sorts coloring song after song. Sanchez sang “Hard Times,” jammed with tremendous bass lines from Spencer. They called up Pareja to join Sanchez in rocking the Buddy Miles classic “Them Changes.” The two guitarists have different styles, which made their exchanges a delight. They close their set with a tune by The Police.
HECK NO that wasn’t enough! The MC and we demanded ONE MORE SONG. Actually, that cry was led by Jessica Majeski of Northwest Mutual Insurance, who was one of the main sponsors of the evening and the one who suggested the two groups for the lineup; many of us were there due to her generosity (REMEMBER: make a donation to the CJH Education Outreach program, helping to put music in schools — link below). All nine musicians crowded the stage as Spencer and Sanchez did a call-and-response intro before they blew out the perfect encore: “I Need Help.”
[FUSIK: tune-up, Tight Work, 3, Cramp Your Style, Geronimo, This Love Ain’t Big Enough for Two of Us, Florida Madness, It Ain’t No Use, Me and Baby Brother, Funky Fast Bump, Hunter, Hard Times, Them Changes, (Police tune); E: I Need Help]
Florida in December, oh yeah!