Jazz and rock hit it off just right on Greg Kurstin's self-titled debut for the Verve label, Action Figure Party. The keyboardist brings together a diverse group of rock musicians including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sean Lennon on turntables, Gabrial McNair of No Doubt, and Gary Novak, who has played with Alanis Morrissette and Chick Corea. All songs were written by Greg Kurstin except one, which was written by his wife and co-performer, Pamelia Kurstin. Action Figure Party opens with "Everybody Ready," setting the party atmosphere with a radio-friendly track that's still true to the jam-band idiom. Elements of jazz are introduced by way of Kurstin's Moog and electric piano work on "Pong Baby," a freewheeling mix of rock and jazz. "Flow," spotlights Kurstin's improvisational skills on acoustic piano that create a visual mood with pat but not overly familiar soloing. Flea fills in the basslines with his eclecticism, making this song happen while drummer Gary Novak provides additional rhythmic charisma with his accessible performance. Together their energy is electric, but still down to earth enough for jazz radio. On "No Sleep" Kurstin is playing great and so is Yogi on guitar with the wah-wah working just right. Kurstin's special guests, with origins in both rock and jazz, make this ensemble of musicians one of the better jam bands in recent years. Action Figure Party is a likely inheritor of that crowd since the featured ensemble incorporates a lot of their licks but still haven't made this just a record for lovers of the jam-band scene.
Action Figure Party Review
by Paula Edelstein