Black Pants, Black Shirt, Grappler Gun

John Gray Band

Independent release, 2012

http://www.johngrayband.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/17/2013

Black Pants, Black Shirt, Grappler Gun is the second release from bassist and jazz composer John Gray and the first to feature a full five-piece band. Unlike the debut, this one features sax and vocals, making it essentially a smooth jazz EP with hints of light rock.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The music is relaxed but not quite soporific enough to be background music, though it veers in that direction on the dimly-lie lounge crawl of "Roses And..." Both "The Everynighter" and "Old People Reminiscing" have a few solid ideas but take a while to unfold, ambling their way toward the relief of the saxophone break.

The title track deserves attention, melding a jittery bass line, a weird Ben Gray guitar solo and Ayumi Ishito's sax riffs, which do what one would expect an electric guitar to do in a rock song. The song pauses every so often for the vocals before heading back into the main jam, with the overall effect unsettling but deeply satisfying. Should they pursue this path, Gray and his band should achieve the success beyond New York City for which they are searching.

"The Dusty Plain" is musically a highlight once it gets past the awkward opening minutes; Gray throws out a series of complex bass riffs and solos under Matt Robbins' keyboards, the music aiming for the loneliness and exhiliration of the lone rider and his horse. The main drawback to the song – and the EP as a whole – is Robbins' singing, which is off-key, and the repetitive, inane lyrics. His voice is not an integral part of the music, but rather an annoying warble grafted on to all of the songs, and the only time it's tolerable in spurts is the title cut.

Anyone interested in smooth jazz will find this EP moderately enjoyable, if fairly unmemorable, but "Black Pants, Black Shirt, Grappler Gun" is highly recommended for all. Here's hoping future albums follow in that same path of that song, because this is a band that has something musically to say.

Rating: C-

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