Material: Using a cool moniker to describe their dynamic and eclectic instrumental vibe (“neo-jazz”), these three SoCal veterans create a powerful contemporary equivalent to the heyday of jazz fusion. Throughout the engaging hour, they offered a stylistic mix similar to that of their latest album Occupy Your Mind. The infectious opener “She Knows She’s Got It” was a high energy, in-the-pocket, pop-jazz- funk jam with an irresistible vocal hook. They balanced the hypnotic, sensual soul of “After Hours” and the hypnotic reggae/island vibe of “When Six Ate Four” with the fiery deep bebop grooves of “Peanut Butter,” which featured Wiseman’s crackling guitar licks. Another highlight was “Aquabong,” the tongue-in
cheek rewrite of “Aqualung,” featuring speedy grooves, a punchy melody and some of the set’s most frenzied jazz/rock jamming.
Musicianship: Oui’ 3’s stated intention is to redefine the public’s perception of jazz. If this set was any indication, they make that redefinition a total blast as all three members showed off their deep jazz chops while engaging in licks and grooves that were steeped in pop, soul and funk. Castro and Xavier create a rhythm section that’s alternately laid-back and in-your-face funked out, and Castro occasionally showed off his melodic chops, as on the hypnotic walking bassline intro to “Over the Hills.”
Performance: People who gravitate toward this kind of hybrid, contemporary jazz with an edge, usually care more about the blazing chops than charisma and stage presence. The good news is that Oui’ 3 has both. They’re definitely more an experience for the ears, but their spirited movements and commanding dexterity on their instruments are exciting to watch. Lou was the talker of the trio, making a playful joke about sax great John Klemmer not showing up, before they eased into “After Hours” (which Klemmer plays on the album) and later the engaging, funny story behind “Aquabong.” Humorous anecdotes aren’t essential, but why not?
Summary: The most inspiring aspects of jazz fusion in the ‘70s Weather Report/Return to Forever days were expansiveness and adventurousness. It was pure energy drawn from many different genres, with no boundaries or barriers and musical virtuosity galore. Oui’ 3 makes their incredible “neo-jazz” the modern equivalent, with one of the most exhilarating shows in recent memory.