Today, what is called “fusion��? is often really either heavy instrumental “shred��? rock with little or no jazz influence, or it’s new-age sleep-inducing fuzak. For those who long for fusion that fits the classic definition — a seamless blend of the energy and “loudness��? of rock with the complexity, dexterity and improvisational spirit of jazz — Whoopgnash delivers.
While Whoopgnash’s music obviously travels through territory blazed about 20 years ago by Holdsworth’s IOU band and Bill Connors, Whoopgnash comes off as more of an extension of that music rather than a slavish clone.
The 2004 live DVD “Unclear Channel��? solidifies Whoopgnash’s stature as one of today’s finest fusioneers. The DVD case states, “This DVD was shot in one, two hour in-studio session, no overdubs. These are all first takes and represent Whoopgnash as we play live, mistakes and all.��?
I had a hard time detecting any mistakes, which is especially amazing considering the extremely complex material this tight trio performs. It’s exciting enough to listen to this music being played, but the experience goes to a whole new level when you watch guitarist John Erickson’s fleet fingers traversing the fretboard as effortlessly as if he were playing air guitar to “Devil Take The Hindmost.��?
Bassist Jeff Jarrard and drummer Bill Paul show remarkable telepathic interplay, often changing tempos faster than you can count the time signatures. The bass playing is busy without getting in the way, while somehow always managing to set the foundation of the music – a lot like what Jeff Berlin was doing back in his days with Buford and on Holdsworth’s Road Games album. Paul is all over the kit, and like Erickson, seems to do it effortlessly.
The ultimate charm of this DVD is it’s like the band invited you over to their soundproofed garage to hang with them and watch them play – no fancy camera work, no artsy “conceptual��? computer-animated interludes, no dry ice, no spandex, no scantily clad dancers (guys, can you at least squeeze that into your next DVD?) – nothing but fiery instrumental fusion played before your eyes by 3 highly skilled musicians.
If you own Whoopgnash’s 2 CDs, this DVD is a must. If you’re a fan of fusion with a capital “F��? – especially the Holdsworth/Connors brand of fusion — and you haven’t yet discovered this band, this DVD is a great place to start.
Also, although there is no official audio CD version of the DVD music, band leader John Erickson offers a no-frills homemade CDR for a mere $12 (includes shipping within USA), so you can get an earful of this incredible live performance when you can’t watch the DVD.