The members of Kneebody have collectively logged hours with such a range of artists-from Ani DiFranco to David Murray to Jurassic 5-that it's tempting to write them off as another multi-hyphenate in jazz's crossover era. But eclecticism isn't the point of their music, which sounds too convincingly effortless to be a self-conscious fusion. In fact, their debut on Dave Douglas' new label reinforces just how meaningless the F-word has become.
Kneebody bolts out of the gate with "Break Me," a fuzz-tone funk tune by trumpeter Shane Endsley that twists through a quick succession of formal convolutions. This immediately establishes the band's rhythmic prowess: Bassist Kaveh Rastegar, keyboardist Adam Benjamin and drummer Nate Wood establish a pocket and hold it tight, no matter what else happens in a tune. And that's saying a lot, considering that the band's originals rarely seek the comfort of a straightforward groove. This is especially true of those by Endsley and tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel-like a stutter-stepping "Coat Rack" and a Return to Forever-inspired "Never Remember."
The full impact of Kneebody is in the ensemble. Their cohesive poise is what sells this experiment, which will hopefully yield another record soon.