AMANDA LAFFERTY ’21
For some the word fusion, when it comes to music or food, can seem wrong and unnecessary; why disturb a genre or cuisine that’s presumably already well-established? Nothing for Granted, Scientific Map’s first release in six years, proves that jazz-fusion deserves conceptual recognition and need not be part of the frowned-upon connotation. Scientific Map is a primarily soul-jazz band that formed in Chicago’s Southside area in 2008. The band consists of guitarist Matt Hudson, bass player Will Baggett, pianist Dave Holloway, and drummer Anthony Reid. Notice there’s no vocalist, but what this group accomplishes from instrumentation alone rivals what can be heard with a vocally-led band.
The dance between the various solos is elegantly done. Towards the end of the first track, “Thanks Everyone,” there’s a slight resemblance to jazz musician Thundercat and his latest work on Drunk, due to the clear-cut bass that smoothly transitions into the harmonized guitar and keyboard.
The start of “Love and Light” sounds like the feeling at the start of a blossoming relationship , when all of life seems joyous and innocent. The song itself is playful yet sophisticated. Towards the latter half of the track, a more contemporary atmosphere becomes prominent, originating from filters and distortions on the keys and guitar.
The exchange between the bass riff and drum beats on “Who’s Gonna Stop Us?” is notably simplistic but illuminates Baggett’s and Reid’s obvious and refined skills. At certain instances, and not just on this track, the jazz-heavy instrumentation blends with hip-hop influences. The ending of this track is great with a quick build up and release that ends with a short punch.
Throughout the album, there are elements of Latin flare, most notably Brazilian samba and bossa nova grooves. This isn’t heard on each song, but there’s a balance between more traditional jazz and the varying genres. “La Señorita Rosada,” a tribute to Hudson’s wife, honors the intricacies of South American jazz. Hudson’s guitar melodies and solos are most prominent here, though Holloway’s keyboard playing pops up midway through.
The ending track, “Lollapalooza 1995” starts off with short, staccato high-hat beats and trembling rhythm guitar. It’s jumpy at the start, keeping the listener on edge then transitioning into smooth soloing by Hudson. The subdued bass and key sounds compliment each other and achieve an illustrious harmony between the instruments. By the end, the listener can acknowledge the steady crescendo that has built up from the beginning, most evident with the powerful and pronounced guitar soloing that spans across the fretboard. The drumming takes a sudden turn to more differentiation among cymbals, pace, and sheer noise; Reid quickly becomes less careful than earlier in the song.
Though only eight songs, Nothing for Granted creates an expansive soundscape of jazz grooves that evoke liveliness and buoyancy. An evolved take on what is considered to be jazz fusion, with influences of funk, hip-hop, samba, and rock, the album is stimulating and is sure to cause reminiscence over new love, heartbreaks, and help to guide those in new-found life journeys.