“Yuganaut is a feast for the eye and ear.”
Seminal musicians Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong eschewed the term “Jazz” as a strange and inconvenient term for their music, an eclectic mix of African, Carribean and European influences, Yuganaut is similarly without category. These are trained musicians who create their own innovative material, and the music is as global and pluralistic as the world they inhabit. Influenced by later trends in Jazz such as Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, as well as European Free music, Indian Classical Music and Western European Classical Music, they move fluidly between sonic worlds with finesse, and, of course, with improvisation (“Yuga” is an Indian term for cosmic time cycles).
As technicians, these three musicians are masters. Tom Abbs has been described in Signal-to-Noise magazine as “fleet-fingered” and by William Parker as “a living growing musician who only reminds me of one other musician and that musician is Tom Abbs..” Geoff Mann brings a journeyman’s abilities into the group, and drives the pulse in a traditional jazz way, as well as taking it to the extreme limits of range and possibility. Geoff Mann is a complete percussionist in the mould of Paul Motian and Han Bennink. He has toured with Steve Swell, Ori Kaplan, and his late father, Herbie Mann. Stephen Rush fuses his work as an experienced jazz musician (with Roscoe Mitchell and Peter Kowald) with his classical schooling (a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music and a professor at University of Michigan for 20 years).
Together, Yuganaut is a synthesis of very good training and extreme range, with a strong taste for the future. (The “naut” portion of the band’s name – they are travelers in musical space and time). In concert, each work features a video complement of some sort, whether static beautiful images of Swedish Ships, a short film of biking in Brooklyn shot and edited by Mann, a collection of images taken by Rush of the river Ganges, or beautiful Graphic Scores created by Abbs. Both video and music alike are a collective effort with this band. The result is an elixir of cohesiveness and multiplicity – never too much of the same thing, but always belonging “to it’s own camp”.
As composers, the men in Yuganaut are not afraid of dissonance or tonality, utter chaos, or clear, composed music in Gospel, Funk or Free Bop. The listener (and the viewer) is a welcome member of an experience that is shocking, moving and delightful.