The primary focus is groove, said Skerik (born with the name Eric Walton), a musician who inspires such sobriquets as iconoclast and avant-saxophonist.
Hes played in such bands as Critters Buggin, McTuff, Garage a Trois, and the Dead Kenny Gs. (Yes, he names them himself.) Tonight, hell be in Olympia with his latest project, Bandalabra.
Its like my version of a funk band, he said. We have rhythm going, but its not like it beats you over the head. Its more polyrhythmic. We have West African influences and Bulgarian influences, but nothing literal.
Im trying to find a place for saxophone as a rhythm instrument.
His goal for this band, he said, is Fela Kuti sees Steve Reich in rocks backyard.
Kuti, a Nigerian musician and composer who died in 1997, fused jazz, funk, psychedelic rock and traditional West African sounds. Minimalist composer Reich is known for using tape loops to create repetitive patterns that shift and change throughout a piece of music, a technique that influences Bandalabras album, Live at the Royal Room, released in March. Reich has been called Americas greatest living composer.
So Skeriks goal is a lofty one. According to a review by Matthew Shoaf on examiner.com, he and his collaborators achieve it.
To my ear, they borrow some of the more advanced minimalist techniques from Reich (phase shifting, for example) and the popular sensibilities of Fela Kuti (danceable rhythms and references to popular genres), Shoaf wrote.
The rest of the quartet is Andy Coe on electric guitar and Dvonne Lewis on drums, who both played in McTuff, and bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, with whom the saxophonist had long wanted to work.
Its all about creating a rhythmic weave amongst the four musicians on stage, Skerik said.
The band has been together just a year, but the album came together easily.
It was just one of those magical nights, Skerik said. Everything was clicking. We came up with those songs that night its all improvisational.
The album was made possible by a campaign on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website for creative projects, he said. It was great to get peoples generosity and support for the project.