Human Element, the quartet formed by bassist Matthew Garrison, keyboardist Scott Kinsey, percussionist/vocalist Arto Tuncboyacian and drummer Gary Novak, have released their debut CD, Human Element. The pan-global group, hailing from the traditions of a couple of their inspirations – Weather Report and the Zawinul Syndicate – is looking to expand their sound into new territory.
Each member has been part of that earlier movement, with Garrison spending time with the Zawinul Syndicate, John McLaughlin’s Heart of Things and Herbie Hancock; Kinsey with Tribal Tech; Tuncboyacian with Al Di Meola’s World Sinfonia, Joe Zawinul and Marc Johnson’s Right Brain Patrol; and Novak with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band. John McLaughlin makes a cameo appearance as well.
“We decided that it should definitely be a band and that a record should be just the four of us,” says Kinsey. “There’s something special about that. We all loved Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and we wanted that real band approach. So the four of us camped out for a couple of days and recorded all the basic tracks for this record. Everybody contributed tunes and we all had some input on how the songs were going to end up sounding. It was never really one guy’s vision, even if it was his tune we were recording. That’s why I really think in the end it does sound like a band record.”
While the group’s Zawinul roots and influences are very apparent at times throughout the album, the quartet does manage to break free and offer up their own sound.
“Language-wise, we all got so much from Joe,” says Kinsey, “and yet we wanted it to be different and about us. And as we got into it, I think it started to really take on an identity of its own. It spans a big area of music and yet it still sounds like one thing.” Adds Garrison, “As far as Joe’s influence on this band, that’s undeniable. He left such a large footprint that it’s pretty hard to escape his essence. And I personally consider Kinsey just about the only musician to really take on Joe’s mantle and bring that sound and vision into the future while still keeping that essence.”
The album ranges from intense to funky to laid back, with plenty of remarkable bass work by Garrison, who originally met Kinsey at Berklee. The two have been collaborating ever since. But Garrison says the addition of Tuncboyacian really brought something extra to the group.
“Arto is one of those rare artists that has an ability to foresee the outcome of a piece of music in its totality from one listen,” says Garrison. “It’s a pretty amazing experience to watch him listen to a new piece and then methodically build scenarios, structures, stories and end up with a creation beyond anything you could have expected. His input so invaluable it’s almost hard to put into words.” Adds Kinsey, “He’s just a wellspring. The guy can just open his mouth and sing something and it’s a tune. Or he can play rhythm and it’s something great. It just pours out of him.”
Novak, who spent time in Kinsey’s band, is another favorite of Garrison’s.
“I played with Gary before on a few tours with Kinsey’s band,” the bassist shares, “and the hook up was immediate. What I really dig about Gary is his passion and intensity when he finds his zone during a performance. He’s an absolute beast of a musician and I’m so proud to say we have a band together.” Adds Kinsey, “Novak sounds particularly incredible on this record. He was really able to do his thing and it all came out really clear. He didn’t have to hold back or change the way he plays for any reason, he could just be himself. And you can hear him really go nuts on several tracks here.”
The group is aiming high with this one, and wants to become a fixture of the international music festival scene.
“The plan is to really go for it with this band,” says Kinsey. “We all believe in it because there’s really nothing else like this band out there. Since Joe passed, there’s just no one making music that’s really on that type of wavelength. So there must be a lot of people out there who would like to find music that speaks to them the way that Joe’s music did.”
Preview and download Human Element:
Human Element Track List:
- The Human Element
- Speak With Your Eye
- Hi Lao
- Listen With Your Mouth
- Crazy Girl
- See With Your Ear
- Shake It!
- Bottom Of The Mirror
- Think About It