It’s a beautiful musical irony that in many ways, we can thank Duran Duran for the incredibly dynamic, deeply funky blend of adventurous jazz fusion and improvisational traditional jazz that drives the creative energy of Dean Mucetti & Rhythm Real’s wild and freewheeling, pandemic inspired album Isolate//Integrate.
Growing up in L.A., that’s where the multi-talented drummer, pianist and bandleader’s journey began – but his palette of influences came to include classic R&B/funk (James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker) and jazz after hearing Max Roach and Buddy Rich’s classic album Rich versus Roach. In addition to all these grand inspirations artfully comingling and manifesting in ever-evolving, sonically and rhythmically expansive ways on the throughout the collection’s six pieces, Mucetti also incorporates his successful career as an educator into the mix.
He launched Rhythm Real as a workshop ensemble for some of his former middle school students and invited old friends from his days at Cal Arts to join in. They played major clubs for several years, and when the pandemic took away live gigs, Mucetti and the band decided to create a high spirited, loose feeling album based on years of playing these types of rhythms, melodies and harmonic structures. A blast of furious, ever-darting energy from start to finish and reminiscent of the classic jazz fusion days of Weather Report and Return to Forever, Isolate//Integrate is grounded in Mucetti’s tight grooves, but its deeper magic comes from the dual keyboard fire of Brian Hargrove’s spaced-out synth runs and electric piano and Alex Williams’ swinging acoustic piano solos.
Many of the pieces – with most running over eight minutes, they’re too intricate and unpredictable to label them “songs” – are fashioned as homages to jazz legends. The buoyant, jangling opener “Steps West” was inspired by John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” while the intriguingly titled, hard driving and improvisation infused romp “Bell Bud” was inspired by “If I Were A Bell” (from Guys & Dolls) and Miles Davis’ “Budo.” Likewise, “Loose Satin” says it all about the way they draw excitement from Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll.” On a more poignant note, Mucetti reflects on his mother’s struggles with Alzheimer’s on “Mother Alone” and captures the collective anxiety and struggles of getting through and past the pandemic on “Licking Myself.”