Friday, November 16, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 62


Big Ass Truck puts jazz into overdrive

By Jesse Gustin
Daily Cougar Staff

Considering the more popular styles of music today, it comes as no surprise to some (and as a big surprise to others) that jazz is still very much alive and flourishing.

Photo courtesy of Terminus Records

The five-piece jazz band Big Ass Truck does its best to resurrect jazz music on its latest album, The Rug.

Much in the same way that hip-hop and rap have found their ways through the winding paths of funk, reggae, heavy metal and even punk rock,
jazz and fusion have found their ways through the artsy, contemporary genres of music today.

On The Rug, Big Ass Truck pleases the oft-accosted eardrums with a premium blend of jazz, hip-hop and mellowed break-beats along with a
smooth, wide array of instrumentation. From guitars to turntables, BAT covers all the bases of the artist and musician in one tight, full-length

The Rug expresses variety. The band is truly unafraid to incorporate real instrumentation into its mix along with beats off the vinyl, so to speak.

Members Robby Grant and Steve Selvidge provide a healthy dose of clean, melodic guitar strumming through tracks like the album's opener,
"The Path." One piece most noticeably influenced by the Latin form of jazz, "The Wardrobe," is a catchy swinger that pushes you into a time
warp. Its Radiohead-like verse has a vocal quality comparable to the Stone Temple Pilots' cover of Led Zeppelin's "Dancing Days."

Electronic samples and spacey guitar chords fill in the walls of the album with a feeling of width, breadth and completion. Through its nine
relaxed but impressive songs, BAT branches off into almost every musical style possible, making it difficult to discern its sound.

Comedic muscles are flexed on the short, jazzy "Add-a-Shag," which demonstrates that the musician, though technical, needs not be serious all
the time. The funky "Doughblood" has a jumpy rhythm reminiscent of Beck, who is known for his own love of combining hip-hop with
retro-musical styles. 

It would be hard to try to pin down any of the influences for this technically advanced quintet. It has been a long time since John Coltrane and
Miles Davis first hit the scene and the vinyl. Big Ass Truck carries on the legend of these immortals through its loving embrace of horns
throughout certain parts of its music, and its unwavering faith in percussion.

Whereas a speed-metal band like Slipknot will facilitate the use of percussion to put an unused angle or slant on heavy music, BAT is giving
tribute to old Latino jazz orchestras, often using conga drums and the ever-popular (in jazzy hip-hop) xylophone.

The title track demonstrates the band's appreciation for great influences. With its own moderate-rock sound augmented by vintage guitars, "The
Rug" takes the listener on a psychedelic ride.

The lack of a front man or lead singer who stands out does not take away from the group's true potential. Its themes have a purpose that has
been a motive of the musical world for centuries: to relax the soul and please the ears through melodic arrangement.

The Rug is not jazz in the sense that The Velvet Fog by Mel Torme is jazz. However, it is an even fusion of all kinds of musical themes that
aims to keep you listening. This easygoing album would be the perfect "chill pill" for any day in Houston rush-hour traffic.

Big Ass Truck

The Rug

*** (out of five stars)

Terminus Records

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