Live at Al’s Bar
Pfmentum PFMCD027

Probably better-known for the exceptional engineering job he does on many Nine Winds releases, Los Angles-based Wayne Peet is also a keyboardist of note, gigging with different bands led by multi-reedist Vinny Golia and trumpeter’s Jeff Kaiser’s large Ockodektet.

But LIVE AT AL’S BAR is something else again – three extended jams featuring Peet on organ, present Wilco member Nels Cline on one guitar, former Shadowfax founder G.E. Smith on the other, backed by the heavy-handed drumming of studio pro Russell Bizzett, who has accompanied everyone from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and pop-folkster José Feliciano as well as provided rhythms for TV fare like “The Laverne & Shirley Show” and “Northern Exposure”.

Considering the set was recorded about seven years ago – in April 1999 – and contains no more than 43½-minutes of music, one has to question its release now. Cline and Smith may have higher profiles in 2006 and fusion fans may be interested in their earlier work, but despite the guitar-organ-drums format, this isn’t really a jazz date.

If anything the overwrought guitar flanges and fuzz-tones lines plus Bizzet’s uncompromising percussiveness suggest the heyday of rock’s so-called super-sessions. Psychedelic bluesmen like guitarists Harvey Mandel, Carlos Santana organist Barry Goldberg, and, of course, guitarist Mike Bloomfield and organist Al Kooper’s famous SUPERSESSION created the most famous examples of this rock-indulgence. But the improv content was pretty minimal.

Peet & Co. aren’t that musically complacent. But still, hearing the repeated organ washes, jangling, metallic guitar licks and extended fuzz tones, not to mention the unvarying rhythm that seems determined to emphasis every beat, you feel as if you’ve climbed into a sonic way-back machine, with the control set way before 1999 – more like 1969. Also, when Peet isn’t outputting jittery pulsations, his dual keyboard skates awfully close to roller rink accompaniment, Cline and Smith seem to emphasis every fuzoid lick from crunching fuzz-tone chords to flanging to sitar-like tremolos. Additionally Bizzett never seems to have met a surface he didn’t want to jab or smash – repeatedly.

If LIVE AT AL’S BAR has any high point, it’s “Inner Funkdom” unsurprisingly the shortest – fewer than 11½ minutes – and final track. With his organ bass, Peet sets up a funky beat that snakes throughout the piece. Yet any balance between the body and the cerebrum eventually vanishes underneath repeated organ licks, overloaded amplifier distortion from the dual guitars and endless drum breaks.

The crowd at Al’s Bar sounds as if it’s having a good time with the bombastic effects here. While an audience exists for this sort of rock-fusion effort, most people though, can find better sessions that add a tincture of the cerebral to the bluster.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Five Swirls: a. Swirl b. Big Lumps c. Soft Foot d. Another Room e. Points 2. Five Doors: a. Creepsville b. Mellow c. Surges d. Driving Time e. Cross Stick Coda 3. Inner Funkdom

Personnel: Nels Cline (guitar); G.E. Stinson (guitar and mangled recordings); Wayne Peet (organ and organ bass); Russell Bizzett (drums)