Last week I went to a showcase by Euphio Records, and it seems like everywhere I go Im seeing bands associated with this label in some way or another.
Friday night I went to the Grotto to see a band Ive been hearing about called the Cerebral Chauffeurs, and found that Joe Prankster, bassist for the Euphio act Animal Spirit, was fronting this mess. Its becoming a good sign anytime I see him on stage. This new harvest of talented young bands is worth watching, not only for the new directions they are taking the Funkytown music scene, but for the unexpected levels of professionalism they practice.
Prankster was playing guitar this time around, and singing, after playing a gig earlier in the day with Animal Spirit. Apparently, he thought the gig at the Grotto had been canceled until right before, and the Chauffeurs were there without their keyboard player. The band consists of Prankster (guitar, vocals), Ben Coker (drums), and James Hughes (bass).
But the Chauffeurs are a different kind of animal than what I heard last week. Oh, there is still the psychedelic edginess there (they have songs with titles like Neon Mushroom Cloud), but while Animal Spirit is a bit more layered and hippy-ish, there is something more precise, energetic and at times frantic here.
The Cerebral Chauffeurs are a psychedelic jazz-rock fusion. Its heaviest on the rock, with a tasteful amount of jazz thrown in. Theres a bit of funk in there, and some Zeppelin and some Floyd (they covered Time near the end of the set). But the rhythm section is tight as a tourniquet and the drums have that sharp attack of a modern jazz act.
Previously, Ive only heard Prankster play bass, and hes good at it. But I was pleasantly surprised his guitar work. Joe is an enthusiastic front man, perpetually in motion, and both his guitar and vocals are engaging without showboating. I could probably do with a little less on the vocal effects at times. Its a delicate balance between interesting and gimmicky, and that line can easily get blurred.
Singer/songwriter Jody Jones has been manning the sound board at the last few Grotto shows I've visited, and thats also a good thing. The Grotto is a friendly little neighborhood bar that you wouldnt expect can sound as good as it does. People like Jody make that happen.
Overall, the Cerebral Chauffeurs is a band that's rock and roll enough to connect with their audience, with just jazz enough to engage those of us who harbor a little inner-music snobbery.