The opening shoots your eyebrows skyward, and the rest of the album keeps them there. Clearly much that is new is still to be mined at the intersection of jazz, funk and electronics. Ballard, who forged a reputation drumming with Ray Charles, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau and Pat Metheny (among others), recorded this live, catching the buzzing interaction of his unusual quintet, with two keyboards, (Kevin Hays and Pete Rende), electronics (Reid Anderson) and guitar (Lionel Loueke). The compositions, from within the band (which is sometimes augmented by Mark Turner or Chris Cheek on tenor), are mostly sketches that are coloured in by the improvising.
And what colours! Loueke is such a supple, slinky guitarist, his playing writhing through the sometimes dense, sometimes transparent strata of keyboard and electronic sounds. While they all play freely with dazzling invention, the interest often steps up another level when a groove emerges. Ballard’s drumming can be thrillingly audacious, whether working against synth bass or just the super-groovy guitar of Loueke (shortly to visit Australia with Herbie Hancock, once more). Just to broaden the palette further, Loueke and Hays also occasionally sing.