Though they are entirely separate genres with completely different backgrounds and time periods framing their existence it has always seem to me that the genres of rock, jazz and R&B were meant in many ways to accent one another at some point in history. Parliament-Funkadelic comes to mind immediately, as do Earth Wind and Fire. I could go on with big names but instead I’ll introduce a smaller name that is progressively making their way into the shuffle of this amalgamation of genres. They are Gainesville, Florida trio Hail! Cassius Neptune, the funky brainchild of husband and wife Kylie Jo (vocals) and Wilson Stern (guitar/ keyboards/baritone guitar/bass guitar) and Benny Cannon on the drums.
Hail! Cassius Neptune has been playing music together since 2013. They released their first record Where is that Cat? back in July and have since been touring around the southeastern U.S. playing playing both clubs and festivals. It is the latter venue which seems the proper place for a band with such a big sound to air it all out.
I say this because from the very opening free jazz tingling of their first track “Faster, Faster” one gets the feeling that they are going to be taken for a ride. And as “Faster, Faster” gets going that’s exactly what it feels like. It takes many turns as it winds through its four minutes, bobbing up and down, moving seamlessly from funk and rock to mellow jazzy breakdowns, and Kylie Jo’s deeply powerful whip-crack vocals command attention. Kylie Jo shows off her range as on the sleek jazz-rock number “The Governess” as she starts out soft and playful before summoning up deep and powerful bass to stand up to the thrashing of guitar and bass, the whirls of keys and the tribally rhythmic drum beats.
Kylie Jo and her boys take their music to a darker place on the bass heavy “Alone Like a Family” which is also infused with a sonic undertone and lets both Wilson Stern and Benny Cannon show off their collaborative chops in a pretty wicked jam session breakdown. This jam session is continued later on the ten-plus-minute “Cool Up, Rise Down,” an opus of genres which moves to touch on genres from rock and blues, to country and jazz, and even has some experimental electronic elements through in for good measure.
Next “Puked on Stacy” is half the length but still hugely experimental and has this great rocking free jazz quality to it. Where is that Cat? closes with the song of the same name. It is heavy metal in nature but uses odd time structures which keeps it freed up and non-formulaic. And non-formulaic is probably the best term I can think of to describe Hail! Cassius Neptune and their approach to writing music. For anyone sick of the same old recipe for rock, Where is that Cat? should satisfy your cravings.
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