LIVE: Brand X @ the Cohoes Music Hall, 5/10/18

Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

Brand X was formed in the mid-’70s in England by Phil Collins – yes, that Phil Collins – and some like-minded musicians. Collins was already employed as the drummer in Genesis, but this side project scratched a jazz fusion itch that his day job was unable to satisfy. As Genesis became more and more popular, Collins found it harder to juggle both gigs and eventually left Brand X after a pair of studio albums.

Despite the loss of their “name” player, Brand X continued in one form or another with various personnel coming and going, as well as lengthy periods of hiatus. The current incarnation performed at the Cohoes Music Hall last month before a small but appreciative audience.

This version of Brand X contains two of the original line-up, guitarist John Goodsall and bass player Percy Jones. The quintet is rounded out by keyboardist Chris Clark, drummer Kenny Grohowski and percussionist Scott Weinberger. All five are excellent musicians, a given in this genre where chops are essential.

Brand X does not play “songs” as such, more exercises in virtuosity. This can be quite exhausting over the course of a two-hour concert. If you are looking for melodies you can whistle on your way home after the show, this is not the band for you. Rather you get breakneck passages of furious unison riffing, more time signatures than you can shake a stick at, and stop/start rhythms that would freeze any dancer immobile to the floor.

Goodsall is a fluent guitarist, somewhat similar to John McLaughlin. Indeed, the band often utilized the Mahavishnu orchestral maneuver of building a slow crunchingly oppressive riff, steadily increasing in intensity until breaking out into a fully fledged fusion wig-out. Goodsall also hit sustained notes at times, and with the dual percussionists sometimes hinting at Latin grooves, this recalled Santana at their jazziest.

If you are a student of the bass guitar then Jones is worth the price of admission alone. He truly does have a unique style as he drives the music along on his fretless instrument. It is a curious bubbling, burbling
glutinous blur of a sound, as if Bootsy Collins was playing submerged somewhere in the English channel.

The band displayed a Monty Python-like sense of humor as well, from song titles like “Why Should I Lend You Mine.. When You’ve Broken Yours Off Already” to Goodsall’s cheerily deadpan introductions.

If you missed this most singular of British fusion outfits this time around (and judging by the empty seats, many of you did), fear not. Greater Nippertown jazz fans will get another chance when Brand X returns to The Egg in Albany on Friday, June 29, supporting Al DiMeola in concert.

Smacks of Euphoric Hysteria
Euthanasia Waltz
Noddy Goes to Sweden
Nightmare Patrol
Disco Suicide
Green Onions
Malaga Virgen
Born Ugly
Why Should I Lend You Mine
Twinkly Fingers (piano solo)
Not Good Enough – See Me
And So to F
Nuclear Burn

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