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In honor of the Pussy Room: Brad Gibson’s ‘Poontet’ rises

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Brad Gibson • Poontet • September 2, 2014

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The title of Brad Gibson’s upcoming September 2nd EP will throw you. Poontet. WTF is that? It sounds nasty. Hardly.

It’s glorious, original jazz fusion dipped in psychedelia by a Seattle drummer who’s just getting started.

Poontet, boys and girls, references the gigs Gibson and his musician friends did at a now-defunct, oddball Ballard, Seattle neighborhood hangout called Copper Gate. The room where musicians performed live was actually referred to as “The Pussy Room,” because of the naked pictures of chicks on the wall and a stripper pole in the music area.

The Seattle drummer and his Poontet crew tested out his songs in front of the Pussy Room crowd in the winter of 2011. In the summer of 2012, they recorded the songs at the Seattle Drum School. Gibson swore the project wasn’t meant to be misogynistic in any way. The EP title and the sexy photo of a woman’s mouth served as his tongue-in-cheek play on the bizarre surroundings where these inspired songs came out publicly.

“I named the group Poontet as an homage to the Copper Gate, the walls of which were adorned with old pornography,” Gibson described in an August 13th email. “The room in which the bands played at the Copper Gate had at one point a dancer’s pole. It was an intentionally-themed environment. I mean, one had to enter a womb in order to get to the music room! The intention of the Copper Gate fueled the act of naming this group. Why should creativity stop with the music? I could have named this group, ‘The Brad Gibson Double Keys Sextet,’ which would have been utterly bland, attracting the attention of approximately no one. Acts of creativity should be all-encompassing.”

Regardless of the Pussy Room’s naughty but fun connotations, Gibson’s use of analog and digital keyboards (Ryan Burns and Mack Grout), rubbed up against trumpet (Scott Morning) and alto sax (Bryan Smith) under a harvest of bass (Jason Gray) and percussion (Gibson), made for a truly original set of compositions recorded without any overdubs.

Gibson felt particularly proud of his six compositions in the EP. “Even though this album was recorded two years ago, it still represents the first recording of my playing (drum set) that I can stand behind one hundred percent and say, ‘Yep, that’s where I’m at right now,’ and not cringe while saying it. In a sense, this album is a milestone for both my playing and my composition.”

He should be very proud. From start to finish, his songs immediately call to mind the shimmying figures of the Pussy Room in all that filtered darkness and ad-slicked fornication — what we call atmosphere — as well as his own meditative personality. Whether Gibson’s going for a Steve Jordan/Bernie Worrell feel from Jordan’s DVD, The Groove Is Here on “I Hope U Make It Dirty,” or trying to capture the prism of a gemstone (“Blue Topaz”), a moment in time (“Twilight”), or a woman (“Andrea”), he and his musician friends do it with counterpoints of sound in the horn, keys, and rhythmic beats.

Those counterpoints cross paths, parallel, reverberate, and focus slight tension for the most elusively familiar déjà vu of feeling. Perhaps a familiar sense of nostalgia in the hypnotic fade of “Round & Round,” or that curious boiling intro in “Blue Topaz,” drawing shades of many, almost forgotten carnival carnies growing up.

He is not one of those musicians into overly complicated, intricate stretches of mind-bending symphonic notes designed to confound and impress more than express. He’s a fusion artist, playing the kind of music he’s naturally drawn to and which fits his youthful stage persona. Gibson calls the tunes on his EP “a hybrid of improvised music filtered through jazz/psychedelic rock/funk.”

Indeed, the jazz/psychedelic rock/funk is a heightened mass of electronic fits and starts in “Blue Topaz,” sparking light from the bass-drums to the keys, and back on the horns.

“The Matriarch” builds an entire mood suite based on the richness of darker tones, elongated and elaborated on a very appropriate upright-sounding piano. Those rich horns slowly raise the level of a most catchy, romantic melody into the territory of a Herb Alpert’s “Rise.”

The stark and true straight-ahead jazz on much of “Andrea” leaves much to the imagination. It’s just Bryan Smith on alto sax, as raw and real as can be. Every line unmarred, letting him feel out the mystery of this woman with trembling, wavering, halting vibrato that occasionally reveals a startling beauty in a long, brilliantly held line of glass. By the 1:25 mark, the keys softly build on the ruminative portrait, beyond the beautiful appearances into the ever-changing depths of character in the octave movement.

The Pussy Room’s no longer around. Check out the next best thing. Brad Gibson’s Poontet comes out officially on September 2, 2014. His EP’s ready for a listen on the Bandcamp page.

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