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  • Jonathan Widran


Not sure exactly what a Hurricane Mouse is – except for the kick-ass funk/rock/jazz slam jam opening The Justin Rothberg Group’s third full length album – but for the sake of mixed musical metaphors and oddball oxymorons, let’s give it a shot.

The “Hurricane” portion starts with Rothberg’s blazing electric guitar work that sometimes rocks and roars heavy over the feisty grooves of Jon Price (bass), Hiroyuki Matsuura (drums) and Andy O’Neill (percussion) at times (evidence: the gritty, swing blues romp “South Beach Banjo” and the percussion wild “Green Room”), but is all improvisational jazz fusion perfection on crafty mid-tempo gems like “Gsus Band,” which finds him numbly handing off a smokin’ solo to his saxman Todd Groves.

“Mouses,” on the other hand, sneak up on and surprise you, which the band does on the lighthearted world beat vibe of “Hotel, Show, Repeat,” a showcase for Rothberg’s equally powerful yet deeply intricate mandolin,” and the lighthearted and super-relaxed “Piece of Mind,” which finds Rothberg in a rhythm role backing Groves’ lyrical emotional expressions.

Somewhere in the middle between Category 5 winds and “quiet as a mouse” are spirited, mid-tempo tunes like “Tom G.” (more whimsical sax from Groves and acoustic guitar sparkle from Rothberg) and the breezy electric reggae-tinged delights of “Bad Apple” and the sparkling, quirkily titled “Beach on Christmas.” Considering the time this stellar album was released, lots of folks can relate to the slow burning and increasingly restless electric fusion energy of “The Layoff Song,” but if lack of work’s got you down, Rothberg and Friends are only too delighted to take you to the fun rock/jazz happenings at “Hot Dog Ranch” to forget your troubles for a while.


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