Much progressive/space/Kraut/post-rock can sound so very, if I may be so bold, white, totally filleted of soul. Many jam bands and groove merchants get into urgent, you-gotta-be-there flights/tangents that can veer into unmemorable self-indulgence. The Californian East Bay-based collective Mushroom surmounts these obstacles by being equally at home with both styles, injecting them with playful humor (a hunk o’ funkadelica entitled "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, But It Will Be Auctioned Off On e-Bay") while forgoing the excesses. Equally inspired by the blues-rich jazz organist Charles Earland, the eclectic proto-fusion of King Crimson and the German outfit Embryo, and the pulsating, open-ended warp-drive of legendary Teutonics Can, this revolving-door unit has Pat Thomas, Erik Pearson, Matt Cunitz, and Ned Doherty at its core, augmented by such diverse Bay Area locals as rock guitarist Dan Olmsted, jazz pianist Graham Connah and singer Alison Faith Levy. Their previous album Mad Dogs and San Franciscans co-featured leather-lunged singer Gary Floyd soulfully firing-up late ‘60s rock chestnuts; on their latest, Glazed Popems (Black Beauty), Mushroom divides their 2-CD magnum opus into a "London" disc (spacey, folk-tinged, trippy psychechedia echoes of primo Traffic, in fact) and an "Oakland" disc (in-the-pocket groove-jazz with a lysergic glaze). When these folks are on, the journey to the center of the mind stops off for beer and BBQ.
Superficially, it might seem Mushroom have little in common with jazz trumpeter Eddie Gale, who blazed the outer limits with icons Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor (on his Blue Note disc Unit Structures and Larry Young (Of Peace and Love, also Blue Note). But his long out-of-print late 1960s Blue Note albums Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music and Black Rhythm Happening (recently reissued on the Bay Area Water label) were a unique spin on the then-new concept of Fusion, each a stirring amalgam of free jazz, gospel, Afro-Latin rhythms, psychedelicized soul and Age of Aquarius-meets-Black Consciousness attitude. Despite its BN-like cover art, Afro-Fire (Black Beauty) -- his first album in 12 years is not a blast from the past but rather an inspired melding of old-school funk, breakbeats, samples, and languid electronica in accord with Gale’s glistening, achingly expressive trumpet. Eddie Gale has chosen to confront contemporary developments in jazz (and beyond) and look towards and embrace a possible future rather than rehashing/reheating the glories of the past.
There are CD Release Parties for the above at two Bay Area venues: Thursday August 12 at Make Out Room, San Francisco (415-647-2888; makeoutroom.com), and Saturday August 14th at Starry Plough in Berkeley (510-841-2082). At both, Mushroom will play a set, and then be joined by Eddie Gale. Both shows start around 9PM. Be there aloha.