Malcolm X Abram: Two talented but very different local bands shine on new releases

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop culture writer

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Akron band Acid Cats EP cover Crosby Street. The Acid Cats released Crosby Street last fall and are working on a full length album.

The Akron area is filled with talented musicians young and old who fill the local live music venues (keep on truckin’, please) with all genres of music. Cases in point are two area bands with fairly recent releases, one a band of young, educated jazz cats and the other a band of grizzled veteran punks.

First up are the Acid Cats, a primarily instrumental quartet of young, jazz-educated musicians who have been gigging around the area for a little over a year.

On the Acid Cats’ debut EP Crosby Street, with guitarist Michael Vincent, trumpeter Tom Lehman, bassist Zachary Wolfe Nagi-Schehl and drummer Cameron Bickley, the band’s sound recalls some of the more jazz-infused bands of the ’90s Acid Jazz movement such as Greyboy Allstars, Medeski, Martin and Wood and Soulive. Other listeners may hear snatches of ’70s fusion bands such as a less intense Mahavishnu Orchestra as well as earlier jazz-rock-fusion bands.

The group, which has since added tenor saxophonist Justin Tibbs, takes its jazz bona fides and applies a healthy layer of funk and snatches of rock for an all-around groovy set of six tunes. Recorded live in the studio during a four-hour session with trumpeter Jack Schantz, a longtime University of Akron educator and former Cleveland Jazz Orchestra leader, the EP has a simple, direct clear sound.

Vincent’s slightly distorted guitar leans on the right and Lehman’s melodic trumpet lines lean left as if the listener were sitting at the front of a stage.

The band’s versatility shines through the six tracks. The opener, Jive Talk, is a toe-tapping funk tune with jazz changes and some groovy solos from Vincent, Lehman and Nagi-Schehl. Dream Door sports a pretty snaking guitar melody before moving through a syncopated funk groove that quickly morphs into a straight-ahead jazz walking bass line and jazz-inflected solos.

It’s deceptively complex in structure, but the grooves and twists never feel as if the band is simply showing off. The band gets funky on the bluesy groove of Whole Tone Song. On the multipart ballad 14 Months, the three soloists show their softer sides, stretching melodies over Bickley’s supportive groove.

The Acid Cats are certainly contemporary jazz; they are definitely not smooth jazz. That being said, many fans of that pop-flavored genre should be able to dive into the band’s grooves and musicianship. And though the band keeps its tunes relatively compact on Crosby Street, its music should also appeal to jam band fans who like a little bit more complexity than the generic jam band funk grooves common to the genre.

The band is currently working on its debut full-length All in a Day’s Work. Crosby Street is available at http://acidcats.bandcamp.com.

On a different part of the area’s musical spectrum come the Giggitys and its album Songs in the Key of Awesome out now on Canton-based Loserheart Records.

The band, which has been around for about five years, is a quartet led by rock ’n’ roll lifer Ric Nimrod, formerly of Akron punk band the Nimrods. Members besides singer/guitarist Nimrod are guitarist Joe Gill, drummer Kevin Six and bassist/singer Paul Ecoli.

They bash out three-minute, four-chord, old-school punk tunes drawing from the Ramones’ melodicism and a healthy heaping of classic snide punk humor in the lyrics.

Named for the Family Guy character Glen Quagmire’s signature exhortation, the Giggitys band isn’t interested in reinventing the punk rock wheel, but it does spin that old sucker pretty fast.

The 10-track album is beer-hoisting, bar-floor-stomping party punk to which even the drunkest bar denizen can sing along. Musical blasts such as Talk to the Hand pack some catchy melodies on top of its buzz-whir bar chords and quietly suggest Nimrod may have had his heart broken recently.

On Don’t Think, Nimrod gets all sensitive about a woman he doesn’t want to miss:

“Well, don’t think just because I love you I won’t pack up and go, and don’t think there won’t be other girls and nostrils full of blow,” he spits before grudgingly admitting he still loves his punk rock girl.

She’s Gone continues the heartbreak with monochromatic chords and a sing-a-long chorus and the mid-tempo rocker Balls Deep in Love With You recalls old-school Social Distortion. Ecoli takes a few lead vocals and is a more of a singer than Nimrod’s beer and cigarette-stained hoark, but retains the band’s bad attitude on the throbbing album closer It’s Not Me, It’s You, singing:

“They say a diamond lasts forever, girl you know it’s true, it’s only taken six weeks to grow sick of you.”

To celebrate the album, the Giggitys will perform at 10 tonight at Chuck’s Steakhouse on East South Street in Akron along with Loserheart Records label mates the Most Beautiful Losers and Scott Paris and the Assorted Vagabonds. Songs in the Key of Awesome is available online at http://thegiggitys.bandcamp.com/album/songs-in-the-key-of-awesome.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.


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