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Monday, August 31, 2015

Brett Higgins - Atlas Revolt (Tzadik, 2015) ***½

By Paul Acquaro

According to Tzadik's description, Brett Higgins' Atlas Revolt "blends latin, r&b, soul, film soundtracks, jazz and more into moody and infectious grooves." That just about wraps it up neatly - by mixing attractive klezmer modes with a strong rock backbone, Atlas Revolt fits in well with many of its label-mates, nestled somewhere between Electric Masada, the Dreamers, and Marc Ribot's Asmodeus.

The opening track is a rousing workout that readily showcases the talents of this Toronto based band. First we hear drummer Joshua Van Tassel who creates a pretty straight ahead groove for bassist Higgins and violinist Aleksandar Gajic to fill with an inspired folk melody. Keyboardist Robbie Grunwald adds a minimalist solo that provided just enough Fender Rhodes shimmer to the song. Guitarist Tom Juhas plays with a clean, dry tone that distorts tastefully around the edges. The song is a group effort, it eschews virtuosic solos in favor of a developing a inspired group sound.  The follow up 'El Metate' works in a similar vein, delivered as a highly approachable song whose timeless melody is cast in a lightly muscular setting. Another track, 'All About that Starry Dark' begins with heavy atmosphere, its theme unfolding broodingly. 'Zagazig' is a delightful track, sporting an ebullient beat that meets a coy melody that opens up with a most unusual sawtoothed solo from the guitar (a sound reminiscent of Mclaughlin on 'Go Ahead, John' from Miles Davis' Big Fun). 'Electric Sinner' is the centerpiece of the album to my ears and the tracks relaxed groove gives the musicians a lush underlayment to build upon.

Overall Atlas Revolt is something somewhat familiar, but re-assembled here in a refreshing and enjoyable manner that will no doubt deservedly pick-up a number of fans. Highly enjoyable and worth checking out!

Available at Downtown Music Gallery