Locally founded jazz-funk group Collective Reaction is celebrating the release of its debut album, Breaking Ground, with a show at Brothers Drake on Thursday, September 18th, at 9pm. Formed at OSU a few years back by now-alum Jason Deran (trumpet/flugelhorn) and now-senior Wes Perry (saxophones), this funky collective is gathering steam now that they have a product to call their own. Recorded in February, the album is packed with eight of Deran and Perry’s compositions and arrangements. The leaders were aided by the talent of the supporting players on the session: Trombonist Elaine Mylius, keyboardist Josh Jessen, bassist Vinny Vivacqua, drummer/percussionist Brian Ellerman, and percussionist David Counterman, as well as the contributions of the Scarlatto String Quartet on the album’s final track. The band’s lineup continues to shift from time to time, but the persistent vision of Deran and Perry has led to the crafting of an enjoyable album and a formidable sound.
The unison horn intro of opener “Hip Mr. Hargrove” sets the tone for the proceedings, and the uplifting melody gets the album off to a cracking start. “I Can’t Wait” kicks off with New Orleans-esque drum clicks before settling into a swaggering groove, with soulful solos from Deran, Perry, Jessen, and Mylius. The band then gives D’Angelo’s sultry “Lady” an uptempo reworking that concludes with a mellow outro guided by shimmering keys from Jessen. The pace then slows down with the ballad “Finding Amy,” highlighted by Deran’s smooth tone and an elegant piano solo by Jessen. Next is “The Wind,” probably my favorite here, opening with alternating horn parts and some sinister keys, before hitting the brakes for a trippy effects-laden solo by Deran that starts slow and builds with fury. After a mellower bass solo by Vivacqua, the tune seemingly ends, then reemerges for a stuttering finale. This track embodies one of my favorite aspects of the album – the band’s fondness for shifting moods and tempos within a single song, then coming back to an earlier theme but with a different approach. An expressive Perry leads the way on the ballad “The Winter Rain,” which is followed by “Detroit Saxophone,” which features a spoken word piece about the struggle of an aspiring inner city musician and then slides into a subdued mood before an emphatic conclusion. For a fitting finale, Collective Reaction sets about deconstructing the classic rock tune “Layla.” Unlike anything you’re likely expecting, their dramatic version draws the album to a proper close.
Breaking Ground showcases a young band that is finding new ways to meld jazz, funk, and soul in a modern setting, and is highly recommended. The album is available for purchase/streaming through the usual online outlets, as well as on Deran’s website. The band announced recently that now through October 12, they will donate 15% of their total sales to Autism Speaks. This is a great opportunity to support great local jazz and help spread autism awareness at the same time!