Si chats with Dave and Mike from Cambridge’s finest jazz-funk-fusion quartet, The 3rd Eyebrow (Of The Wretched Poisson).
The quartet consists of David Mitchell Jones, Michael Roca-Terry, Ian Griffith and Tom O’Grady, who formed back in 2010, and have spent the last three years refining and experimenting with their sound, finally releasing their first album, The 3rd Eyebrow of the Wretched Poisson earlier this month. “Wretched Poisson” refers, presumably, to the three-eyed fish that adorns their logo and album cover. There appears to be – according to their bio – some kind of over-riding sea concept to the bands journey, (listen to the full story on the embedded player above)
Opening number, Eric Spental kicks off the nautical theme with lapping waves and ships horns before laying out a number which exemplifies the bands proclamation of musical dedication. Swirling horns and guitars abound, occasionally folding over to allow perfectly timed bass licks.
The Monkey Strut is probably the highlight of the disc, with war-like opening drums leading up to a mellow, confident, hum-a-long beat – maybe its musical inception at its bluntest, but this bouncy, lively number exquisitely conjures up a mental image of a velvet-tuxedoed gibbon strutting the jungle boulevards. Imagine a simian Miami Vice, if you will. With bananas instead of cocaine. Or scrap my overly literal interpretation, and accept it as a pretty damn good funk track.
Sophistophunk – can be forgiven for its frustrating title, a portmanteau which tries to combine far too many words. It treads the same ground as the last two tracks, but does so in style, with a deep, almost wobbly vibe that, in keeping with the oceanic notes, almost sounds like it was recorded underwater.
The ten-minute interlude, Gentle Mirage, as its name might suggest, provides an oasis of calm amongst the frenzied relentlessness of its fellow tracks. An Egyptian-esque flair runs through the track, twinned with rolling drums and backed up with an almost hypnotic recurring bass line, to create an interlude, that is gentler, but no less impressive than the faster-paced numbers.
Understanding the Lilt – surprisingly not an in-depth seminar on Coca-Cola’s tragically misunderstood tropical soda – but a smooth, gliding number which allows the jazz aspects to flow freely, among a sea of crunches and understated drums. The cohesion of the instrumentalists is evident not just here, but throughout the band’s music, an aspect which is integral to how slick the overall sound is.
Up the Haze finishes off the CD with a steady number with jazz-heavy extended sax interludes and nice fade-outs which builds to a hazy (appropriately enough) middle act, ending on an extended guitar solo and drum blast, leaving the listener with a fresh sense of the technical talent on display.
Finally, the gulls and lapping waves which opened the disc return to usher out the music, and provide an appropriate symmetry to the album.
Funk is what is promised and funk is delivered, in a début which, in only six tracks, marks the quartet out as a potential future mainstay of jazz-funk. The lack of vocals may put off some casual observers, not to mention the track length – none of these run under five minutes – but in truth these factors allow breathing space for these craftsmen to create their musical murals. Special mention should be made of bassist Dave Mitchell Jones, who stands out especially.
Overall, if fenland funk fusion is what you’re after, The 3rd Eyebrow are definitely one to check out – as débuts go, this is a short but satisfying one, and doubtless makes for a great gig as well.