Music has long been considered the universal language. It can influence
moods. It can calm savage beasts. It can also tell a story or provide
imagery for a story that’s being told. Still (Jazsyzygy
Records, 2013) by pianist John Funkhouser is the latter type.
The core trio consists of Funkhouser, Greg Loughman on bass and Mike
Connors on drums. Guitarist Phil Sargent appears on three tracks, and
vocalist Aubrey Johnson on two.
“Indigo Montoya’s Great Escape” starts with a piano roll, then quickly
kicks in the accompaniment. The trio goes through several gear-shifting
moments, from fast and dramatic to peaceful – like an interlude between
action scenes in a movie. One can almost visualize Indigo’s adventure
from a hard-charging, open-field run to a stealthy, “let’s make sure
there are no booby traps” approach. Interspersed are a few moments of
planning and waiting for the sentries to move on.
“The Deep” features Sargent and Johnson with the trio. It’s an
easy-moving, haunting selection. The guitar has a slight, Pat Metheny
quality. Funkhouser licks his chops to be sure, but Sargent carries the
lead much of the way. The ethereal tones are ripe as the soundtrack for
a diving expedition. However, after the midway point, the piano takes
over, and the pace becomes frantic, signifying danger. Pirates? A school
of sharks? Monsters from the deep? Whatever, it gets the musicians in
flee mode. Once out of harm’s way, the group reverts to the tranquil,
haunting mood the song began with. Johnson’s voice blends beautifully
with the guitar.
A native of the Boston area, Funkhouser was educated at Cornell
University and New England Conservatory. He has taught at the Berklee
College of Music. Also a bassist, he has been a featured soloist with
the New England Philharmonic Orchestra and with the MIT Wind Ensemble.
He has appeared on ABC television’s 20/20, NBC’s Today Show
and NPR. Funkhouser is an associate professor at Berklee, teaching bass,
piano, ear training and ensembles.