Formerly known as the Isaac Young Quartet, Phonosynthesis has been a mainstay in the Connecticut and Northeast funk scenes for the better part of a decade, winning two Connecticut Music Awards along the way and earning three nominations from the prestigious New England Music Award committee.
Comprised of Isaac Young (saxophone/keyboards/Moog), Jon Dostou (bass/vocals), Tommy Furdon (guitar/vocals) and Nick Charlton (drums), Phonosythesis has become a reliable source for powerful, inventive jazz and funk fusion arrangements, whether live in concert or in the studio setting. With the band’s debut studio effort, GRÜVHAUS, the quartet showcases its undeniable band chemistry and relentless quest for the almighty groove.
GRÜVHAUS was recorded over a period of nine months at a remote studio just outside of Hartford. Bandleader Isaac Young characterizes the recording sessions as “magical,” explaining, “It was the most organic recording process I’ve been a part of. We let the music dictate a lot of the creative flow every time we walked into the studio. Recording improvised music is inherently a challenge, with every take changing and adapting to the current moment. But, there was this energy unlike any other when we would hit record. You could feel it in the room, you could hear it in the notes. We often strive to capture ‘magic’ in the studio and I truly feel that the moments we caught on tape highlight those moments of transcendence.”
Bassist and fellow bandleader Jon Dostou echoes those sentiments, noting how “the nature of recording live music lends itself to long hours of relentless input, an unwavering erstwhile exhaustive attention to detail, and just the right amount of uncomplicated recreation. Whether intentional or not, the time musicians spend together in close quarters gives life to what some people would call a “vibe.” Phonosynthesis’ debut album, GRÜVHAUS, is the tale of one such vibe.”
The magic and vibe that Young and Dostou speak so highly about is apparent early on in tunes like “The Promise Man,” a relaxed, reggae-infused track and the instrumental “Gravy,” a greasy funk turned psychedelic rock tune. Young’s tractor beam like Moog gradually builds and climbs, providing the perfect foreground for Dostou’s sharp, cutting bass to slice through the track. “The Joker’s Mosaic,” as it suggests, is a bit whimsical, and features a brilliant jam section with Young mounting up a sparkling sax solo.
“Birth Of A Machine” is patent jazz/funk fusion, in the same vein as a Medeski Martin & Wood tune. Drummer and collaborator Seth Botos hold downs the groove ever so tight on this one, lining up another sonic collision course for Young’s B3 Hammond organ and Dostou’s searing bass.
“Nocturnal Displacement” is a beautifully exotic instrumental composition that illustrates both the cohesiveness and explosive melodic qualities we’ve come to expect from a modern jazz collective. Lead by the sultry licks of Dostou, who plays guitar on the track, and Young’s sax, one could easily see “Nocturnal Displacement” being a catalyst for an extended, improvised jam in the live setting.
A pairing of Wall Street titled tracks, “Dow Jones” and “The Na$daq” appear on the latter half of the record, the former written in 2010, the latter just last year. Dostou says that “While there are a number of extramusical factors that went into the decision to name the tune “Dow Jones,” one cannot ignore the effects of the 2008 financial crisis, from which many people were still reeling at the time. The tune is part mantra, part warning, and part economic analysis. The Na$daq…serves as an incisive reflection on “Dow Jones.”
Marking yet another instrumental composition, “The Road to Smyrna” is one of the most dynamic selections on GRÜVHAUS. A reference to the agent Greek city situated on the Aegean coast, one only needs to close their eyes and listen to this track to visualize the arduous but rewarding journey that Phonosynthesis takes you on. From a dirt road path, into a thicket of woods, dodging rock falls, finally making your way to open green pastures, the listener can go on any journey they want within an odyssey like “The Road to Smyrna.”
With GRÜVHAUS, Phonosynthesis has crafted a focused and accessible collection of music that cleverly walks the tightrope between the worlds of jazz, funk and rock. With each passing song, the listener is presented with a different taste from the band’s exquisite and varying musical palate, the kind that can’t help but inspire a big grin and some slick dance moves.
Phonosynthesis will be holding a release party for their new album this Friday, March 4 at Black Eyed Sally’s in Hartford. Ticket information is available at the band’s website here.
[Cover art by Kenyon Grant and Glenn LaVertu]