Take the polyrhythmic electro-acoustic beats of King Crimson and Stickmen drummer Pat Mastelotto, add fuzz-inflected lines of creative electric bassist and producer Lorenzo Feliciati, add jazz-informed textures of Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 organ, piano and synthesizer player Roy Powell, and finally blend in the unique voice of avant-jazz cornetist Graham Hayne: You will have the raw ingredients of one of the most powerful and unique instrumental groups on the scene today.
On Ouroboros, their second release, the members of Naked Truth boldly push the envelope of contemporary electric instrumental music, an edgy blend of jazz, prog-rock, ambient music and electronica, as they themselves explain.
Graham Haynes, who succeeds original trumpeter Cuong Vu in the lineup and is a longtime collaborator of Bill Laswell as well as part of an ambient-electronica improv duo with DJ Hardedge, says in a news release, “The stuff I do with Hardedge is all completely 100% improvised – Naked Truth is very different in that we try to bring more structure to the music while keeping it loose at the same time.”
“I came to Bill Laswell’s studio in New Jersey with several pre-produced ideas, most of which already involved the drumming of Pat Mastelotto” adds Italian bass player Lorenzo Feliciati, who is also responsible for the whole of the post production and pre-mix of the recording.
Roy Powell continues: “I had several ambient textures recorded at my studio in Oslo with my prepared piano and new Moog things done on the iPad. Then after listening to it, Pat and Lorenzo put down a rhythm track – Pat using both electric drums and an acoustic kit simultaneously, which he is a monster at doing. And finally Graham found a space for his lyrical and inventively treated cornet work to round off the whole process.”
“The main thing for me,” says Haynes, “is I didn’t want to just play over loops, because I had already done that. I wanted to have some kind of flesh, some kind of harmonic content to deal with. So Roy and I each brought in some harmonic ideas, Lorenzo and Pat brought in different pre-recorded grooves and sketches, and we interacted with all these ideas playing live in the studio. Everybody brings in something, everybody’s got their own flavor. And a couple of guys have several flavors that they bring to the session.”
Feliciati adds “Graham in particular was terrific in coming up with melodies and ideas during this process. He really surprised me with his use of electronics on the cornet. It is not easy to hear a new or different approach these days from everything that Miles Davis had done with trumpet and electronics. But I think Graham is adding so much, creating his own vocabulary on the instrument that it is fresh and unique while also being in some way a sincere tribute to the great Miles, whom we are all very connected to.”
He continues, “Working with Bill Laswell, who produced the final mix of Ouroboros, was both a nerve-racking and exciting experience. “I admire Laswell so much,” he says. “He is a genius, one of the best and most forward-looking artists of the entire scene as well as a wonderful bass player. So you can imagine how happy and honored I am to have his touch on the music.”
Pat Mastelotto reflects how one tune from Ouroboros evolved during the sessions at Bill Laswell’s Orange Studios. “What eventually became ‘Dust’ began as a trippy kind of Pink Floyd thing that Roy brought in. It had no intrinsic time or tempo so to hold the fort I decided to throw down that double-timed beat box stuff that you hear, so then we had an anchor to improvise around. Then I started jamming on the drumkit to what Lorenzo was doing with all that high fuzzy feedback bass stuff he was playing. At some point I reached over and turned off my beatbox, and from there the attitude was, ‘whatever happens, happens.’ I just go for it and look for ‘happy accidents’ to come along in the process.”
Founder of the successful ’80s pop group Mr. Mister as well a member since 1994 of King Crimson and more recently in the power trio Stick Men (with noted stick players Tony Levin and Markus Reuter), Mastelotto says Naked Truth is unlike any band he’s ever been in. “For me, it’s the addition of the trumpet and keys that makes it different. It seems I work with gobs of guitar and stick players but seldom do I get to interact with a horn. And Graham is a killer improviser. He is really a powerful force. And while I have worked with keyboard players, it has been quite a while, so working with someone of Roy’s caliber is a special treat. Roy is over-the-top good on everything — piano, Hammond B3 organ, synthesizers. He also does killer iPad stuff, so he’s both old and new school. And like Graham, he’s a very smart and tasty improviser.”