By: John Shand, The Sydney Morning Herald

Aaron Whitby – COUSIN FROM ANOTHER PLANET (Ropeadope) ★★★½

Music, like storytelling, is partly the art of balancing the predictable and the unpredictable. You lead someone down the garden path, only to find a chasm, a mountain, a pot of gold, an axe murderer or a lover. No one who masters funk is troubled by being predictable: that’s what dance music is. But, on his debut album as leader, keyboardist/composer Aaron Whitby, a Londoner who relocated to the US (and has fleshed out records by George Clinton, Randy Brecker, Lisa Fischer and more), also has a bulging sack of surprises (after the two relatively pedestrian opening tracks). Without sacrificing the funk, Whitby whips up a few dazzling ensemble flourishes worthy of Frank Zappa, some heavily-produced, oneiric sounds redolent of 1970s art-rock, and jazzy mazes of soloing in which one can happily lose one’s self. These latter come from Whitby, tenor saxophonist Keith Loftis and violinist Charlie Burnham, while heating the grooves are bassists Fred Cash or Jerome Harris and drummer Rodney Holmes. Lisa Fischer joins Whitby’s wife, Martha Redbone, as one of four guest vocalists, and the originals are fleshed out with a storming version of Herbie Hancock’s The Eye of the Hurricane 2.0JOHN SHAND

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