Ghostcar

Too Strong/The Art of Transition

Ghostcar is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Priding themselves on the fleeting nature of their "sightings," the inevitable cycle for this longtime local cosmic jazz juggernaut is a short string of mind-blowing performances, only to disappear from sight. No sooner had the improvisational troupe emerged this summer with a fiery row of shows celebrating their long-awaited first proper studio album then esteemed trumpet player/spiritual wizard Karl Poetschke headed to Colorado to dig for gold. Literally. Previous wild hairs have taken him through Central America and on ships sailing around the world. Fitting, because Ghostcar is, in essence, all about the musical journey. Inspired by the intersection of virtuosity and creative fire of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew electric era, Ghostcar has used a similar musical toolbox, most notably Poetschke's reverberated trumpet. There are several differences, but it's remarkable how close Ghostcar comes to achieving the unique vitality of that particular moment of musical perfection. Then again, the minute you cue up Too Strong/The Art of Transition, the fast-moving assault of drummer Clay Stinnett shows this sound to be as physical and energetic as it is cerebral and imaginative. As opener "Too Strong" unfolds, guitarist Daniel Huffman brings the cosmic funk behind bassist Chris Purdue's steady and seductive anchorings and the blurry smoke of Poetschke's ethereal trumpet. The peaks and valleys are so natural that the logic of the band's approach becomes perfectly clear. How could composing these pieces in advance ever match the spark and true flow of the group's all-live, no-overdub purist improvisational aesthetic? Only in this environment do you get the flat-out genius of a wailing solo from Huffman near the end of title track "Too Strong," heralding a sickly intense conclusion, or Poetschke's melodic, deep indigo solo on "Andante a La Disco," bringing the album's most uplifting and catchy stomp to a tender, thoughtful and unexpectedly brilliant conclusion. Too Strong's colorful odyssey veers from steam-engine stomp and shamanic flute virtuosity to subtle textural mastery, embellished by vibes, keys and feedback. Yet no matter how strongly I could urge you to track down this album--easily the year's best among locals--there is still no substitute for the live experience, where Ghostcar once again builds their sonic empire entirely from the ground up.

 
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