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September 2006

Grismore/Scea Group
Well Behaved Fish
Accurate Records

Remember those old cartoons in which the protagonist, sleeping Rip van Winkle-like into the next century, awakened to find an atomic funhouse world of flying cars, smell-o-vision and outlandish creatures? Such are the images brought to mind by Well Behaved Fish, the third album (and first in nearly a decade) by Iowan guitarist Steve Grismore and West Virginia’s Paul Scea on saxes and flute.

The two leaders take equal shares of the compositional duties. Scea tends to favor uptempo, mechanized heads, while Grismore’s tunes have a moodier, more atmospheric approach. Both use electronics extensively, giving the band its retro-futuristic sheen, and each shakes up fat grooves with a free-blowing attitude. But it’s trumpeter Brent Sandy’s “Cletus N’gugu” that scores the cleanest hit. It’s a chunky slice of electronic ’toon funk that rushes and swoops like a roller coaster, with spiky synthesized guitar, far-out flute and Sandy’s own wah-wah horn squawking like a garrulous duck.

The album takes a few stylistic detours. Ornette Coleman’s “Dancing in Your Head” is rendered as a giddy calypso, and Grismore’s “Baghdad” is full of quasi-Eastern riffing that recalls some strains of hippie-era rock. But freewheeling funky fusion is the touchstone, and fans of that idiom will find plenty of enjoyment here.

Originally published in September 2006
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