Garage a Trois
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11
Written by John Metzger
Five years after releasing an EP, Garage a Trois ó the side project that combines the talents of guitarist Charlie Hunter with those of drummer Stanton Moore, percussionist Mike Dillon, and multi-instrumentalist Skerik ó has finally released Emphasizer, its first full-length effort. Yet, despite all of the gigs that the ensemble has performed together as well as the heaps of praise tossed its way by the incestuous jam band community, one canít help but wonder why Emphasizer sounds so scattered and incomplete. On more than half of the albumís tracks, it feels as if one is walking into the middle of something ó as if lengthy jams were sliced and diced into bite-size pieces and given titles. Since the songs still manage to meander, sometimes rather aimlessly, the truncation ó if that is, indeed, what has taken place ó is probably a good thing, though that doesnít even begin to make up for the serious lack of cohesive ideas yanked together to form a 40-minute album.
Thereís little doubt that the four musicians performing as Garage a Trois are extraordinarily adept at their chosen instruments, and buried within with the tedious snippets are plenty of moments that showcase their individual abilities. On Plena for My Grundle, Charlie Hunter leads the group through a fusion of Cuban-influenced jazz and rock. However, while his guitar lead is rather masterful, the song as a whole sounds weak in comparison to similar outings from Los Lobos, and by the time the inexplicably gratuitous tempo shifts occur, the tune utterly has worn out its welcome. Unfortunately, a similar fate befalls Hunterís other compositional contribution Gat Swamba. Likewise, the shimmering, kaleidoscopic blend of rhythm and horns unleashed by Moore, Dillon, and Skerik on Hard Headed Rio aka Rio Cuca Dura serves as an attention grabber, but the track inevitably goes nowhere. In other words, none of the strong, individual moments are capable of saving Emphasizer from being anything more than just another undistinguished groove-rock outing.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box