If there’s a spanking-new cover jam band out of this town the past year and a half stressing gung-ho, its name is probably Afro. They’re wedging into their own with a new self-produced, three-track internet EP, Meat and Ill, consisting of originals recognizable from shows performed in Murfreesboro proper with the likes of Sky Hi and Copper Into Steel, among others.
The mini-P sounds off six “collegiate musicians” coming across as a cohesive, math-inspired fusion of jazz, rock and elements of international progressions via Adam Mullis and Blake Gallant on guitars, Kaitlyn Connor on keys and vocals, and Chris Conrad on bass while Silas Jackson and Jeff McSpadden hold down a hefty percussion section. All are generous during frenzies of improvisations over the 15 minutes “[making] complete sense when the group has a classically trained pianist, a jazz elitist on lead guitar, and an overall musical intelligence,” to say the least. But they’re still just a nice funky jam band we can call our own. (Quotations attributed to the band’s website bios.)
The first track from Meat and Ill, “Flat Rock,” is a great example of how well the members of Afro work together. Musically, it’s a comfortable exploration into the mid-paced, happy jazz-funk loosely related to a THB sound while asking harmoniously, “Can you bring yourself together?” over the swapping electric piano and guitar before speeding the tempo for Connor’s organ to supply a climactic bridge that gives everyone a chance to solo on top of it. Jackson’s drums and McSpadden’s bongos delight a studio audience before taking the groove back to the verse’s sound and structure. It eventually fades out with the title’s repeating chant to clapping hands. It’s rare when simplicity in structure saves room for individual jazz complexities without feeling crowded.
“One Way or Another” and “Strife and Stride” hold true to that value with different codas but the saga of police intervention of travelling bands is too familiar with in “One Way,” while an homage to Zappa’s title track from the ‘74 Apostrophe album and Brandon Boyd’s voice are heard throughout the self-explanatory “Strife and Stride,” with Connor on the stride.
Afro will be playing Atlanta gigs for a few weeks, but they’ll be back to Nashville for a moe. afterparty at The High Watt on Feb. 17 and into Murfreesboro on March 16 at Wall Street. Show information, live show videos, recordings and streaming and downloadable copies of Meat and Ill can be found at www.facebook.com/AFROtheband and www.reverbnation.com/afromusic#!.