The Other Planets

The Dragon's Den

December 21, 2003

What do The Beach Boys' “Surfin U.S.A.” and the Christian traditional “Amen” have in common? Not much, and the local instrumental octet The Other Planets didn’t seem to care Sunday night at The Dragon's Den. They played excerpts from both songs in one composition. The group consisted of guitarist/keyboardist Dr. Jimbo Walsh, percussionist/bandleader Anthony Cuccia, saxophonist Tim McFatter, bassist Matt Kryvanick, drummer Jeff Hebert, and trombonist Jeff Albert.

Their sound was based on the risk-taking acid jazz of The Sun Ra Arkestra, while Frank Zappa’s irreverence for genre boundaries, sense of humor and political consciousness were alive in the band. The band spliced justice musings by Richard Pryor and unflattering George W. Bush speeches into the music. Hell, they had a song called “Blues for Enron.” This sensibility seemed fresh coming from musicians all in their early 20’s. They jumped from big band to reggae to classical in a moment’s notice, and they weren't afraid to mix a wailing guitar with a drop-heavy funk bass line and hip-hop beat.

More so than in other jazz bands, their rhythm section was locked down while the other instrumentalists were free to roam. The group played equal parts covers and originals, a number of which came from New Orleans modern jazz everyman Walsh. He played the fastest guitar solo I've ever seen. This city is great because things like that happen on Sunday nights when no one is around.

When Cuccia told Albert to “remember that extra note” before a new song, it was obvious they were under-rehearsed. In such an intimate setting, their vulnerability made their triumphs seem even greater, though.

Hats off to an adventurous young band that is sure to only get better—that’s if the Republican bar owners in this town will give them a gig.

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