More Than a Punny Name: Phonosynthesis Shows Chops on ‘Gruvhaus’

Photo by David Stoltz.

Photo by David Stoltz.

Two things that tend not to sit well with me: band names that are puns, and funk-jazz-rock hybrids, which too often signal that the music is mostly just tedious jamming (or is that redundant?). Phonosynthesis, then, comes to the plate with two strikes already: the Hartford quartet is a funk-jazz-rock band with a punny name.

Yet the foursome shows undeniable chops on “Grüvhaus,” their debut as Phonosynthesis, which is due March 8. Born from the remains of the Isaac Young Quartet after that band split in 2014, Phonosynthesis reunites Young on sax, Moog, keys and vocals, with bassist Jon Dostou, and adds guitarist Tommy Furdon and drummer Nick Charlton. Though all four (along with some guests) have been playing together for a comparatively short time, you’d never guess it on these 10 songs.

The musicians interact with a natural ease that feels almost instinctive — the way the band builds from a meandering reggae-tinged instrumental passage into a tight, melodic section two-thirds of the way through opener “The Promise Man” is just one example. The album leans more heavily on funk-rock at the start, with a dude-nod organ vamp and stop-start rhythm to begin the instrumental”Gravy,” which expands into a soaring guitar workout, followed by a big rubbery bassline, horns and vocals from the Donald Fagan school on “The Joker’s Mosaic.”

Drummer Seth Botos and Dostou steer “The Road to Smyrna” with a tight rhythm that frames resonant piano from Young, who takes the lead on the organ-heavy “Joseph the Count” (also featuring Botos). Young on sax and Dostou on guitar trade lead passages on the instrumental “Nocturnal Displacement,” each instrument spinning off to explore a different direction before everyone returns to the main motif, anchored by a fast-moving bassline. It’s the song on “Grüvhaus” that veers most into jazz, and also the most impressive showcase for the musicians’ virtuosity. If that’s the synthesis they’re referring to in the band name, they’ve got it down cold.

Phonosynthesis performs Friday, March 4, at Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford.

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