Misnomer's Modern Fusion Masterpiece
There are some bands one may stumble upon that manage to create music that ultimately defies the traditional limitations of genre and simply must be experienced to be understood.
Misnomer is one of those bands.
The Athens 9-piece, which began life at the University of Georgia under the moniker “Mister Tie Dye”, is, for all intents and purposes, a jazz ensemble. But to reduce the group’s rich, colorful, diverse, and unpredictable work to something explicable with a single term would be nothing short of brazen disrespect for their creative ingenuity.
Indeed, Misnomer is a band that is capable of crafting blissfully subdued, subtle, and reflective ballads, uproariously energetic and highly danceable funk numbers, grandiose symphonic epics, and everything in between. And on their new album, Neighborhood, they make this fact abundantly clear.
An enthralling LP from start to finish, Neighborhood seamlessly weaves together a wide variety of moods and textures into a vivid, multi-faceted musical tapestry. The compositions are stunning. The performances are flawless. Clocking in at just over an hour, one might expect the album to feel long-winded, but in truth it almost seems as though the end comes too soon, entranced as one may find oneself by the ever-changing, labyrinthine nature of the record’s ten tracks.
The group’s horn section – made up of trumpeters Michael Meo and Josh Klein, saxophonists Jose Moran and Chandler Greer, and trombonists Malik Henry and Paul Nelson – drives the grand majority of Neighborhood’s songs. However, that’s not to say that they’re the only members that get a chance to shine. Dazzling electric piano solos abound, thanks to Matt Vu. As do intricate and thunderous percussion breaks courtesy of Wesley Sumpter and Mason Davis. And when he’s not tastefully locked into the groove with (quite honestly eerie) precision, bass player Warren Lawson demonstrates an absolute mastery of low-end melody and counterpoint.
Together, these 9 world-class musicians have produced a masterpiece of modern fusion, and a record that may well go down as one of my favorite releases of 2018. Neighborhood is a unique album that strikes the perfect balance between artistry and accessibility, and which seems to offer a much needed middle ground where the popular consciousness which defines the local music scene can embrace and explore the all too often exclusive and academic world of jazz.
Album art by Donnine Canamar & Gabi Robins