Mumpbeak – Tooth [TrackList follows] – RareNoise RNR078, 41:43 [5/26/17] ****:
Is it jazz? Is it progressive rock? It’s definitely Mumpbeak.
(Roy Powell – Hohner clavinet, Moog Little Phatty, Hammond organ, tubular bells; Lorenzo Feliciati – bass; Torstein Lofthus – drums)
What’s a Mumpbeak? Despite the title, it’s not some fantastical bird. Mumpbeak is the Oslo, Norway-based prog-rock/jazz fusion instrumental power trio led by keyboardist Roy Powell with bassist Lorenzo Feliciati and newest member, drummer Torstein Lofthus. Feliciati has issued solo projects; Powell and Feliciati are in jazz-rock ensemble Naked Truth; Powell is also in the genre-defying trio Interstatic; and Lofthus drums for avant-garde group Shining and the psychedelic prog-rock/jazz trio Elephant 9. Mumpbeak crafts a kind of niche music, which blends classic progressive rock akin to Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Van Der Graaf Generator alongside forays into jazz comparable to Miles Davis’ early ‘70s material. Mumpbeak’s 41-minute sophomore release, Tooth, was issued as a CD Digipak, a limited-edition single blue vinyl LP (2×180 grams) and a digital download album. This review refers to the CD version.
Powell favors a heavily-effected, guitar-sounding clavinet. “I play a stock Hohner E7 clavinet into a series of guitar effects pedals going into a Fender valve amp,” he explains. “Over the years I have become less interested in stock electric piano or Hammond organ or acoustic piano sounds. So one day when I was playing my clav at home I thought I would max the guitar aspect of the instrument and see where it would take me.” During the seven tracks on Tooth, Powell also utilizes Hammond organ and Moog synth to add variation in the auditory coloring. The threesome commence with the powerhouse opener, “Boot,” where the clavinet’s guitar sound is in command. Lofthus offers brawny pacing while Feliciati contributes jazzy bass to the stop-start arrangement. The trio shows it’s intricacy on the 6:22 “Brick,” which presents slices of modern jazz and a 1980s-era Frank Zappa-esque influence. Several sections in “Brick” include Torstein’s harder rhythmic drumming, Powell’s softer clavinet soloing where he showcases his keyboard range, and Feliciati’s nuanced fretless bass. The record’s most roaring cut is “Saw,” driven by Lofthus’ authoritative percussion, and Powell’s keyboard dynamics, where he interleaves distortion effects and guitar sounds similar to a wah-wah pedal and a whammy bar. It’s quite something to hear someone play a clavinet and sound like Jimi Hendrix or Joe Satriani. A King Crimson inspiration can be discerned on the shortest piece, the fast-striding “Cot,” a jazz-fusion composition accentuated by Feliciati’s knotty bass work, Powell’s keys and Lofthus’ equally elaborate drumming.
Photograph by Einar Thorbjoernsen
Mumpbeak can decelerate the proceedings, as they do on the lengthy, ambient-touched “Caboose,” where Powell and Feliciati create an atmospheric electronic landscape reminiscent of late-1970s Vangelis. After that four-minute preamble, a jazz fusion tone shifts in with Powell’s groove-flecked clavinet chords, Feliciati’s bass lines and Torstein’s drumming, which brings to mind Bill Bruford. The timbre builds from there when Lofthus does a drum solo at the tune’s conclusion. Mumpbeak saves the best for last on the seven-minute closer “Stone.” Powell switches to Hammond organ, which provides a more soulful slant and escalates the fusion jazz resonance. There’s a blowout during the tune’s final half where the trio heads into a spree of manic drumming, flashy Hammond runs, overdubbed tubular bells (a nod to Mike Oldfield) and feverish bass lines. Mumpbeak’s music isn’t easy to categorize and thus the appeal to some music listeners may be limited. They mix and match progressive rock, fusion jazz, smidgeons of psychedelic rock and other musical stimuli into their original material. If you’re an aficionado of adventurous music which defies pigeon-holing, then give Mumpbeak a try.