On their debut recording, Vermont’s Badsuit accomplish the most difficult tasks facing improvisational musicians: bringing a genuine sense of spontaneity, comparable to their live performances into the often not-so friendly confines of the recording studio.
That the Burlington fusion trio surmount that challenge with such flair is all the more laudable since they leave themselves room to grow with tracks like the opener “The Gooseneck Appendage.” A couple resounding bass bombs or outright violent guitar shredding would extend the dynamic range of the recording (not to mention its playing time), but Kevin Stephens’ refusal to overplay can’t be applauded enough; the facile means by which he shifts from rhythmic to solo guitar parts seems less an example of overdubbing—though if it is, more kudos to producer Rob O’Dea—than a deft hand at his instrument.
Likewise bassist Alex Budney who, on the tranquil likes of “Wrong Way Gone,” displays his debt to Jaco Pastorius without patent imitation of the late bassist’s sound. Budney concentrates on playing within the ensemble, offering straight lines or quick turns as the interaction and/or the composition demands. Likewise drummer Tim Sharbaugh, whose understated but intricate intro to “Levanter” is the one instance where he proffers some obvious panache, still without calling attention to himself.
To be sure, it’s left-handed compliment to praise Badsuit for not falling prey to the egoistic pretensions of fusion pioneers like Return to Forever or the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but it’s nonetheless appropriate. The brevity of the album, containing five cuts clocking in at a little over a half-hour, may beg the question of how prolific the threesome are as composers. But the fact of the matter is neither Stevens, Budney or Sharbaugh play or write with an iota of selfish flash. On the contrary they display maturity beyond their years in terms of both their musicianship and their arranging skills.