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The Free Form Funky Freqs blend jazz, R&B, rock and a little space music

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. In the 1970s, influential musicians such as Ornette Coleman began combining free jazz and electric funk. Three notable vets of free funk bands periodically team up to get reacquainted. Vernon Reid, Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Grant Calvin Weston call themselves Free Form Funky Freqs. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead likes their attitude.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS' "OUTER ARM")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: The new album by the trio Free Form Funky Freqs is called "Hymn Of The 3rd Galaxy." The title shouts out to Chick Corea and Return to Forever's jazz rock classic "Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy" from 1973. That said, the Funky Freqs came out playing the post-Corea jazz rock style known as free funk - music with fewer complicated melodies and a little more earthy grooving.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS' "EARTH")

WHITEHEAD: These three players helped shape the free funk style. Bass guitarist Jamaaladeen Tacuma played in Ornette Coleman's jittery electric band Prime Time. Drummer Grant Calvin Weston backed spiky guitarist James Blood Ulmer. Vernon Reid played guitar in Ronald Shannon Jackson's great '80s unit Decoding Society. Reid also founded New York's premier Black rock band Living Colour, and he still brings that in-your-face lead guitar energy.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS' "ORION SPUR")

WHITEHEAD: The trio Free Form Funky Freqs - that's Freqs with a Q like in frequencies. As the name implies, they're heedless of category, blending jazz, funk, R&B, rock and a little space music. Their tune "Norma Arm" grabs a catchy guitar lick from the New Orleans funk classic "Cissy Strut" by the Meters.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS' "NORMA ARM")

WHITEHEAD: Jamaaladeen Tacuma's bass bops and Grant Calvin Weston's clean big-beat drumming do their own push-pull dance behind the guitarist. It makes for lively, rhythmic crosstalk. Vernon Reid plays plenty of big arena guitar here. A blues reins him in, for a minute anyway. With the blues, you want to put some feeling and meaning into it. Those old string-bender licks sound more stressed than usual.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS' "PERSEUS ARM")

WHITEHEAD: These days, a few top jazz guitarists demonstrate their restraint and good taste on record. So it's bracing to hear Vernon Reid crank it up to 11 and wail so often on the album "Hymn Of The 3rd Galaxy." The road of excess doesn't always lead to the palace of wisdom, but it might pass through some colorful territory out there beyond the boundary lines where Free Form Funky Freqs camp out.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS' "PERSEUS ARM")

DAVIES: Kevin Whitehead is the author of the book "Play The Way You Feel: The Essential Guide To Jazz Stories On film," and he writes for Point of Departure and The Audio Beat. He reviewed "Hymn Of The 3rd Galaxy" by Free Form Funky Freqs.

Coming up, John Powers reviews the new Showtime series based on the 1980s film "American Gigolo." This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF KYLE EASTWOOD ET AL.'S "SAMBA DE PARIS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Currently he reviews for The Audio Beat and Point of Departure.
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