Geronimo Black

Geronimo Black

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Geronimo Black Review

by Lindsay Planer

This is the only LP from the incipient version of Geronimo Black -- a supergroup of sorts featuring contributions from former Mothers of Invention membersJimmy Carl Black (drums/vocals), Buzz Gardner (cornet), his brother Bunk Gardner (flute/trumpet/bassoon/sax/organ/vocals), and Denny Walley (guitar/organ/vocals). Evidence that Frank Zappa initially worked with these musicians for their tremendous instrumental prowess is obvious throughout this self-titled effort. The angular and Baroque progressions of "Quaker's Earthquake" recall Zappa's orchestrations circa the Uncle Meat (1969) project. "Siesta" allows Bunk Gardner to unveil his tremendous versatility on what is undoubtedly the most pleasant surprise for listeners expecting an album of nothing but avant-garde and R&B material. The gentle tune recalls Erik Satie's 3 Gymnopédies (1888), with multiple melodies that diverge and reunite in an effortless interaction. The more introspective performances sit remarkably well beside the hammer-down ethos of "Low Ridin' Man" and the equally gritty "Bullwhip." As a rock & roll band, Geronimo Black foreshadows the sonic attack and verve that informed many of Captain Beefheart's Magic Bands. This is prominent throughout the cut "Other Man," which boasts a rhythmically off-kilter introduction and gallop that is strikingly similar to "Safe as Milk." The horn section takes the combo into the realm of jazz fusion. However, rather than leading the group, as per Chicago or the Loading Zone, they simply augment the arrangement à la the Tower of Power horn section, which adds a bite of brass within the context of R&B and soul. "L.A. County Jail '59 C/S" is an odd blues that invokes the spirit of the Electric Flag's "You Just Don't Realize." The straight-ahead rocker "Let Us Live" is a protest boogie that rises to the occasion with some nifty little horn riffs punctuating the emphatic vocals. The band re-formed in the early '80s on its way to becoming the Grandmothers -- which also incorporated the talents of another ex-MOI, Don Preston. While the initial attraction of Geronimo Black might lie in its Zappa connection, this effort firmly stands on its own merits and equally unique consortium of versatile talents.

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