Electric Red: Ghosts of fusion past

Electric Red is not kind of blue

David Dovo
Photo by Adam S. Phillips

You hear it immediately, and practically see it, too. The glowering and stooped visage of post-Bitches Brew Miles Davis, prowling across a stage and cueing one of his sidemen for a solo with a hand gesture, the trumpet pointed south, the music tightening and loosening around a fragmentary melodic figure, distortion and backbeat, the elegant chaos of gaseous music solar systems resisting a surrender to form.

David Dovo, bassist and helmsman of the Lafayette-based electro-jazz cooperative Electric Red, hears it all the time, and pursues it as if it were a ghost in the wind.

“What if those guys were alive today, experimenting with drum ’n’ bass beats, y’know?” asks Dovo of the Miles-era cats, describing the approach of his franchise.

True enough, not all of them are deceased (Dovo cites players like Herbie Hancock and Bill Laswell), but that vibe is the lost romance of untethered improvisation garlanded with synth pads and samples.

“Even hip hop, trip hop … electronica, even if I don’t want to use unnecessary labels, it was coming from a premise like that,” Dovo says.

A swing through their online sampling (culled from NY live shows — Dovo says his Colorado band will have a CD out next year) dropped us into a mean bit, a live track slyly entitled “Maggie Gyllenhaal vs. Gary Oldman,” seared midway through by a guitar solo hot enough to blush lead. Damn, we’re thinking, that sounds a lot like an unbound Reggie Lucas, tearing up a side from Agharta, circa 1975. Heavy metal jazz, from the era of elephant bells and shade-tree afros.

“Definitely,” says Dovo, obviously pleased by the reference. “I record all the shows, so some of the first things you hear, the first couple of things we recorded, were when we had two guitar players. It was kind of having that [Miles] thing where you had Reggie Lucas and Pete Cosey. So it was coming from that.

“The lineup keeps morphing. It’s basically my baby, with a collective of people backing me up.”

Dovo came to Colorado from New York City a couple of years ago, and it doesn’t take long to detect a hint of Brooklyn-loft-jam-session in his musical ethic.

Electric Red | Photo by Adam S. Phillips

“The thing was,” he says about his time playing in New York, “being in the jazz scene out there, there are all these great jazz players who come from all over the world to play in New York, and I was blessed to play with these amazing players in a lot of different projects, [but] after awhile it just felt very over-saturated. The thing about playing here is that … even though there’s a healthy music scene here, no one’s really doing stuff like this.

“[When I was in New York] I started programming all these different things, from different projects, and even though they’re really songs, it’s all very improvisational based. … A lot of it really comes from metal, because you could think of it as riffs. But it also comes from things like dub, or Fela Kuti, with these driving bass lines that are repetitive and create a trance-like state, which goes along the lines of electronic music.

“But when I got the musicians out here, everyone would just get the stripped-down programs. Learn the grooves, learn the basic melodies, learn your parts, and then throw it out the window. Do what you want, and we feel the moment every time.”

This is, on a certain level, rigorously urban music, with the heavy promotion of woodwind, the freely applied garnish of spoken-word samples and swatches of house music circuitry around the fringes. Dovo’s current trio lineup includes woodwind/keyboardist Josh Quinlan (who is also an instructor at the University of Colorado’s College of Music) and drummer Manuel Lopez. It’d be an overstatement to say that Electric Red is a fish in a frog pool around here — there’s plenty of solid and forward-leaning jazz in the area, and has been for years — but Dovo, who divides his mechanics between bass playing and effects, is pretty resolute about inflicting some serration.

“The thing is, I also come from a metal background,” Dovo says. “I like things that hit hard.”

Electric Red plays the Pioneer Inn Thursday, Sept. 5. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. 15 E. 1st St., Nederland, 303-258-7733.

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