Jack Giering Rumpuss90If ever there was a man capable of causing a rumpus of cosmic proportions it's Jack Giering. And he brought his friends...
Cosmic Rumpus
The Jack Giering Trio – with Phil Keaggy and John Sferra
www.myspace.com/jackgiering www.philkeaggy.com www.johnsferra.com
Strobie Records / Golden Wave
13 tracks / 54:11

Picking up where last year's Inter-Dimensional Traveler left off, Jack Giering (keyboards), Phil Keaggy (guitars), and John Sferra (drums) play musical chairs – this time with Giering winning the seat that gives him top billing on the second of (presumably) three 'trio' albums by these fine musicians. Rumpus has a more cohesive ensemble sound than their fine first effort. Three master-musicians can, in fact, bounce musical ideas off one another using long-distance technology and produce funky, tight instrumental jams sounding as if they're playing in the same room. The experiment obviously worked.

This outing shows the trio as more of a well-oiled machine than on Traveler. Of course, when the musicians are this good it's also a delight to focus in on what each player is doing individually. Sferra, in particular, is better recorded on Cosmic Rumpus – sounding warmer and more visceral, as a drummer should. Keaggy sounds looser and gets to play more with textures and sound settings on these tracks, but he also turns in some impressively clean effects-free playing, especially on the title track. Giering shines on a variety of keyboard sounds - from convincing synth bass, horns and strings to meat-and-potatoes piano and organ work, incorporating a vast backlog of stylistic tricks from rock, to jazz, to soul, funk and fusion. Put the elements all together and you get Booker T and the MG's meets Stuff. Impressive, indeed!

Opening with the up-beat funky jam, "In My Arms," the trio takes us on a musical trip that's somehow sentimental and musically challenging at the same time – no doubt thanks to the collective years tucked under the belts of these three veterans who have done their time on the road, developed formidable chops, but know where the good stuff of life is found. Titles like "In My Arms," "Big Hugger," and "Gabby," along with "Kracker Jackie," "First Bass," and "Cosmic Rumpus" reveal an affectionate outlook on life alongside a hefty dose of humor. This is the yin and the yang of the Jack Giering Trio: life is precious – hey, let's have some fun....

Obviously, this music needs to be heard to be appreciated (for samples – and to buy – go here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jackgieringtrio) - words can't accurately let you know what to expect, other than to tell you that you're in for a very, very good listen. The fine gospel-meets-pop-meets-jazz piano work from Giering on "Gee," for example (think Leon Russell's intro on "The Letter"), the delicious drum breaks from Sferra on "Topsy Creme Part #1," Keaggy's sweet guitar lines from "Where's Yesterday's Smile"... Each band member shines individually yet there's real magic that happens on songs like "First Bass," a jazzy song where the band absolutely cooks to perfection. The interplay between percussion, guitar, piano, and organ is a musical conversation not to be missed. Keaggy and Giering masterfully layer textures under their soloing in this track and "Cosmic Rumpus," where Sferra combines both rock and jazz techniques to spendid effect.

For those who enjoyed Inter-Dimensional Traveler (and that would be all of you – right?), Cosmic Rumpus takes things a step further with more tightly-composed songs, more mature and more adventurous soloing, and a better mix. And of course, "Blue Cayman" features one of the most pristine Jew's Harp solos ever recorded!

According to the dictionary, "Salubrious" means "favorable to or promoting health or well-being." That also happens to be the title of a song on Cosmic Rumpus. Now, 'Rumpus' is defined as "a noisy or violent disturbance or commotion – an uproar." This music is indeed good for your well-being, and if anybody's capable of starting a rumpus it's Jack Giering. Add Keaggy and Sferra and you've got potential for a salubrious rumpus indeed....
Of cosmic proportions, of course.

-Bert Saraco

 4 ½ TOCKS.