My first experience with The Budos Band was hearing what must have been something off of Burnt Offering in a bar in 2014, concurrent with that album’s release. Now, mind you, the culture was sort of on their side at that point, as that mark preceded Kamasi Washington’s breakthrough masterpiece The Epic by one year, and others by more that stood to further this “jazz revival” we’ve been having this decade which has also arguably corresponded with the “death in hip-hop.” Anyway, I was wowed, floored, by the funkiness and the fresh style and energy, and always remembered the name.
It seems strange then that the band is just now issuing their followup, The Budos Band V, a whole half-decade down the road, instead of rushing to cash in on their widespread popularity and sudden, ironic alignment with the times. Either way, here we have it, a full LP on which I must say the ENERGY holds up throughout and perhaps also betokens the very strain of continuing creative output within such a tired old format as jazz, or rock and roll, even, aching and plodding with a creative flair all the way through, as it does.
V will also prove that that Budos are far from academic chamber-jazz: opener “Old Engine Oil” rumbles in with a guitar riff that will actually remind you exactly of Led Zeppelin IV, more or less. “Old Engine Oil” also happens to be the weakest track on the album, just for troubling tendency to slouch into the age-old, white-boy-dance realm of jam bands like Galactic or maybe Leftover Salmon, lacking as it does a certain direction and tension that spice up much of the rest of this album.
Indeed, beginning on track three “Spider Web Pt. 1,” it seems like these guys unleash what’s basically an endless amount of ideas, with songs that pipe in with unorthodox means such as a rhythm section playing alone (Budos Band intriguingly have four percussionists currently to their name), a swanky baritone sax here and of course pious-sounding Hammond organ there, which seems to be quite the dominant trend these days, fine by me. Lots of spots on V can be characterized by a distinctly middle-Eastern feel, too: on “Ghost Talk,” trumpets take the fore as they’re prone to doing with this band, plotting down a melody probably equally influenced by blues and by the Persian road. The song really takes off, though, in the second minute when this dual guitar layout initiates this ominous, beautiful ascending melody which seems to take the band’s general love affair with minor notes and intervals to a whole new level, in internalizing this exotic angle. This is summer, festival music at its finest, commendable for in this age of ego, undoubtedly carousing as the work of a collective of minds who seem to finish each other’s sentences without ever uttering a word.