Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ben Flocks: "Battle Mountain" - DownBeat

Ben Flocks
Battle Mountain

The coastal magnificence between Santa Cruz and San Francisco is unlike anywhere else in the world. The roads twist and dip unexpectedly while winds can blow from any and every direction. Ben Flocks, a 24 year old saxophonist, hails from that Pacific paradise and his debut is a jovial mix of American musical styles well suited for a ride down Highway 1.

Guitarist Ari Chersky is an essential force on this disc, helping Flocks transmit the grooves in various ways. He hovers on album opener, "Battle Mountain," with a moody surf twang that grounds Flocks' rumbling horn and drummer Evan Hughes' riptide torrent. His sly six-string touches to a roadhouse rendition of "Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You?" add a modern feel, juxtaposed next to Flocks' Big Jay McNeely-esque honk. Keyboardist Sam Reider lends a pounding modernism to a soaring cover of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright," before switching over to the accordion for a zydeco-inflected stomp through Leadbelly's "Silver City Bound." Unexpected to say the least, but it works well with Flocks' confident tone conjuring Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas" at a crawfish boil.

Flocks' original "Boardwalk Boogallo" maintains that hot-fun-in-the-summertime feel with an homage to Santa Cruz's seaside wonderland, no doubt wailing on his tenor with a sizable grin. Between the old-timey tunes and upbeat vibes, the band comes across as though they were booked for a school dance rather than a concert hall - and that's a good thing.

Ben Flocks @ DownBeat

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