Partying like it’s (the band’s) 1999 (debut), Garage A Trois’ latest studio album Calm Down Cologne via Royal Potato Family proves jammin’ jazz-funk instrumentals still rule the party. Guitarist Charlie Hunter, saxophonist Skerik and drummer Stanton Moore recorded the album in an afternoon at Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho in Seattle. Engineer Randall Dunn oversaw the single session. The band’s three-night sold-out stint at the Nectar Lounge across the street from the studio infused itself into each note the master musicians composed. Dunn’s AVAST! Recording Co. mix enhances the vibe from beginning to end.
Infectious opener “No Zone” features a funk throwdown bass groove seemingly created for Skerick’s notes to dance on. “The Epic” slides in with a hypnotic flow and the only vocal on the record: Seattle singer Christa Wells provides an overdub essentially immersed in the music. Subtly brilliant, Skerik powers through a bank of analog keys (Modal 001 synth, Rhodes 54, and Mellotron) in addition to sax. Primal, its groove transcends time and space with each note. In comparison, the title track feels like a frenetic invitation into the moment when these three geniuses realized something special was going on. A quick hit at 2:36 in comparison to the other songs on the album, “Calm Down Cologne” feels intimate, like behind-the-scenes peeks into the green room or backstage sometimes do. Serious genius struts it here!
Since the birth of “In A Pro-Pro” came on tour in 2019, how does this track translate in today’s nearly nonexistent live music and music festival landscape? Laidback, otherworldly synth work couples with Hunter’s soaring guitar to strut, bump, grind, and twist into the album’s conclusion. Slow, sexy jazz groove winds down the sounds, as “Numinous” is like an updated funk-infused speakeasy number to wrap this collection. Really, Garage A Trois spent 22 years in pre-production before the universe decided it was time to shower Calm Down Cologne on us.–Lisa Whealy