Guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski set the bar high with his recording debut, the Tony Williams Lifetime-influenced 1994 Lunar Crush project with keyboardist John Medeski. Subsequent releases by his amoebic funk-rock-jazz-rap group, Screaming Headless Torsos, were equally stunning. Over the past decade, the fretless guitar specialist’s solo and Torsos efforts have been hit-and-miss by comparison. But his latest, KiF Express, is a unique blend of Eastern tones and funk rhythms that’s a definitive bull’s-eye.
Fiuczynski has played with Japanese keyboardist Hiromi’s molten fusion quartet for the past two years, giving the guitarist (a New England Conservatory grad who teaches at Berklee) a chance to express every technical nuance. KiF Express, like all of the best releases under his guidance, features a funk foundation that spirals upward through the guitarist’s technique and sense of humor. The opening “Shiraz” shifts between rock and funk sections anchored by bassist Steve Jenkins and drummer Skoota Warner, but includes a Fiuczynski-programmed drum & bass segment. “Moonring Bacchanal” adds the Torsos’ all-world percussionist, Daniel Sadownick, to the core trio for even more far-reaching combinations of swing, metal and Middle Eastern music.
Sadownick also adds spice to Fiuczynski’s wah-wah pedal workout “Sakura - Ying Hua,” plus “Cumin,” which is what Led Zeppelin might’ve sounded like if it replaced its legendary singer with guest instrumentalists. Fiuczynski certainly recruited the right rhythm section to accentuate his custom-built double-necked guitar assaults. Jenkins’ credits include Hiromi and Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno, Warner’s Big Daddy Kane and Mary J. Blige. Stressing grooves over solos, they give late explorations like “Almond Pear” and “Ek Balaam” the right amount of funk grease to keep KiF Express from ever derailing.