With Power Patriot, the realigned Garage a Trois attempt to answer the musical question: "Is there life after Charlie Hunter?" The seven-string samurai has been part of this band’s lineup since its inception a decade ago and his replacement by Marco Benevento fundamentally alters the sound of the quartet. This music is definitely less dependent on groove though it carries just as much visceral impact (and in your face, not through insinuation).
Benevento certainly isn’t reticent about stepping right into the fray. The once and future member of The Duo has no fear on letting rip with his synthesisers on the opening track "Rescue Spreader" as well as "Fat Redneck Gangster." Marco’s most interesting work-post Joe Russo collaboration has been his acoustic piano work and here "Purgatory’s" delicacy offers as elegant change of pace to the louder likes of what surrounds it.
Essentially a solo track, it is comparable to Mike Dillon’s "Dory’s Day Out." The interplay between the vibist and the keyboardist sounds like nothing so much as the enchanting timbres of a music box. But these tracks also beg the question of the new Garage A Trois chemistry… or lack thereof: previous GAT work has never sounded anything but seamless and the whole of this foursome may be less than the sum of its parts.
But that’s not to deny the essential link of continuity with lineups past, drummer extraordinaire Stanton Moore. With all due respect, Skerik continues to add suitably abrasive sax textures that accentuate the new GAT approach, but he’s nowhere near as riveting in his playing as the New Orleans rhythmatist. The founder/leader of Galactic gabs attention early on with his hard syncopation on "Fragile" and hardly recedes to the background through the course of the ten tracks; in this unusual prominence, however, Moore does not render himself flashy or intrusive.
Clever graphics inside and out of Power Patriot’s package offers glib insight into the collective braggadocio of Garage a Trois 2009. They know they’re good and they’re not shy about showing us how. The extent to which you agree may depend on how much you need to be convinced–and whether you prefer Charlie Hunter to Marco Benevento.