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J.A. Granelli and Mr. Lucky: Homing (In Nine Parts)

Bassist, composer and mood-machinist J.A. Granelli cooks up an engaging, impressionistic sonic stew with his band Mr. Lucky, balancing the ambiguity and the implied emotional storylines of the album title, Homing (In Nine Parts). Jazz may be part of the general family tree here, but its branches also include folk, rock, gospel-ish vamps and roadhouse poetry (thanks especially to Gerald Menke’s languid steel guitar glisses and Nate Shaw’s textural washes on B3). Alt-Americana according to the post-Frisell world may be one obvious reference point, but so is the Grateful Dead, with morning-dew groggy pleasures and late-night jam spirits.

Grounded by the relaxed rhythm section nudging of Granelli and drummer Mike Sarin, the band has a strong central soloist in Brad Shepik, one of those guitarists deserving wider recognition who can push his timbral and riffing palette around to suit the varied landscape, at times reminiscent of old Terje Rypdal and Frisell fretwork. Yet heated solos aren’t really the point: painting collective, atmospheric pictures is.

Granelli’s spare, evocative tunes provide just enough data and melodic/chordal material for the group to get busy with, to concoct a series of nine different jammy tone poems. “Fortunate Son” (no relation to the John Fogerty tune) opens the album with a cumulative sizzle rather than a bang. Fittingly titled, “Lazy Eye” follows a slow, greasy and meandering course and Granelli’s sinuous, sweet bass opens the drowsy waltz tune “Sum Song (Gil),” which takes some unexpected harmonic turns. Closing the date, “The Row Boat Stomp (Lola)” plots a furtive shuffle groove beneath a nattering, brainy head, generating a nocturnal neo-rock-jazz feeling into the moonrise.

Originally Published