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Wayne Horvitz/Zony Mash: Upper Egypt

Wayne Horvitz’s Zony Mash takes on Pharoah Sanders’ sidelong “Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt” from 1970’s Tauhid and loses the ponderous lower half-but not the upper’s bottom-heavy funk. Where Sander’s 17-minute version begins with overly long ambient rattles, Horvitz jumps into Sanders’ version of “Upper Egypt” around the 10-minute mark, has electric bassist Keith Lowe grab the song’s funked-up bassline and turns the soul-jazz piano riff inside-out on his Hammond B-3 and synths. Zony guitarist Timothy Young, standing in for Sanders, doesn’t match the saxophonist’s off-the-hook solo intensity-he opts for tightly buzzing modal lines that conform to the Zony’s monstrous rhythmic mash-but the effect is like a kickin’ Cliffs Notes version of the Sanders classic.

Much of Upper Egypt follows in the same psychedelic swamp-funk mold as the title track and Zony’s previous discs, Cold Spell and Brand Spankin’ New. Fans of Medeski, Martin & Wood, The Meters and other avant-groovers will shake it to such heavy head nodders as Bill Frisell’s “Big Shoe” and the band-composed “Snakebite,” a nasty bit of gutter groovin’.

Upper Egypt is modern electric jazz-funk at its finest.

Originally Published