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14 Sep 2016

Defunkt “Thermonuclear Sweat “1982 US Jazz Funk Rock

Defunkt  “Thermonuclear Sweat “1982  US Jazz Funk Rock
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The downtown scene of New York City circa 1980 was the nexus of punk, jazz and dance music yet few artists attempted to compile all three styles into one mega-style, citing reasons such as “technically impossible” and “virtually unlistenable”. Enter trombonist Joseph Bowie, who developed the Voltron-like powers to merge these genres into one sound with his group Defunkt, who released their debut album the same year. A hit with musicians and a miss with everybody else they returned in 1982 with a tighter yet schizoid follow-up, the pummelingThermonuclear Sweat. Named after a song from their first album Thermonuclear Sweat stacks fast and furious funk grooves on top of one another – horns colliding with guitars crushed by percussion – until every sonic cavity is bursting with sound, and then Joseph Bowie sings on top of that. If the orchestral funk of Earth Wind & Fire walks with military precision Defunkt moves like a prison break: quick and focused but chaotic and angry.“Avoid the Funk” ignores its own advice, slapping horns upside their heads with mercilessly heavy low end. Ever the versatile band they can stampede “Ooh Baby” into a headlong fury of melting guitar harshness, courtesy of a pre-Living Colour Vernon Reid, yet also float into the straight jazz (kinda) of “Big Bird (Au Private)”.Bowie sings like a football coach yelling plays, which makes the revealing “I Tried to Live Alone” much more engagingly paranoid, and their revved-up fluttery cover of the O’Jays “For the Love Of Money” increasingly desperate...~


Joeseph Bowie was a working member of the 70s NYC avant-jazz set when he happened to be in the right place at the right time to be pulled into New York’s new up and coming so called punk-jazz scene. Joe first worked with the unintentional originators of this scene, Ornette Coleman and James Ulmer, as a sideman as they introduced a new gritty energetic form of fusion that was an antidote for LA’s bland fuzak. After that, Joe worked with one of NYC’s first full-blown post-punk jazz poseurs, James White, in one of his many tongue-in-cheek cynical and sarcastic funk ensembles. From there Bowie struck out on his own with his Defunkt group that borrowed from James White’s punky ascetic, but introduced far better musicianship and more sincere lyrics and presentation. 
Thermo Nuclear Sweat is the second outing for Bowie’s Defunkt ensemble, and it finds them already searching for what they might do next when the jazz-punk fad will inevitably fade. Most of this album is fairly similar to the first with a lot of raw funk tunes played with punkish abandon and avant jazz chops, but the wave of trendy enthusiasm that gave the first album a lot of propulsion is starting to show signs of doubt on this second outing. In the ever changing NYC music scene, post punk irony is about to be replaced by the more spartan hardcore scene and Defunkt’s funky pork pie hats will be replaced by Last Exit’s brutal primal scream in the world of avant-jazz rock. Surely a bad sign is the fact that Defunkt includes two classic jazz tunes on here that are passed off as post-punk lounge ironica, when in fact the band just copped out and fell back on the standard working tunes of their jazz days because they were running out of ideas. 

The big plus on here is the guitar work of Vernon Reid who plays wacky deconstructionist solos on the jazz tunes, and searing psychedelia on the mostly instrumental rock-funk number Ooh Baby. Joeseph is great on the trombone as usual, but he can’t sing and neither can the rest of his group with their almost shouted back-ups. The repetitive almost spoken monotone ‘beatnik’ vocals are always a minus with this band. Defunkt would have been a lot more powerful with a real singer. Anyway, overall this is a fun album and a great time capsule of NYC club life in the early 80s ...~


Defunkt/Thermonuclear Sweat is the pairing of the first two albums by Joseph Bowie's all-star jazz-funk group, Defunkt, which included such luminaries as Vernon Reid, Kelvyn Bell, Kim Clarke, Kenny Martin, Melvin Gibbs, and others. Defunkt (1980) picked up an aesthetic first put forth by Miles in the mid-'70s, and Ornette Coleman's Prime Time in the late '70s, with the latter adding the hot-foot whomp of James Brown, the tune sparking the fire of Prince and the Downtown New York scene's outsider vision. The formula was refined and perfected in 1982 with the issue of Thermonuclear Sweat, where Bowie's trombone and vocals added more "song" to the groove: the effect was devastating. Defunkt was and is a place where vanguard jazz, hard funk, street savvy, soul, and assaultive rock & roll all blend together in a pool of sheer musical abandon and hedonistic glee. This double-disc package has been augmented with bonus tracks, no less. Disc one carries the 12" version of "Razor's Edge" and three live cuts from 1983 -- including a killer take of "In the Good Times," while disc two contains a live version of "Big Bird (Au Private)" from the same show. Put together, this collection is one of the reissues of the year, as the music vibe has not only not dated, but proven that Bowie and company were far ahead of their time.... by Thom Jurek...almusic...~ 


Rarely has the fusion of two different styles of music worked better than on this album by DEFUNKT. In 1980, trumpet player Joseph Bowie, born in St. Louis in 1953, collided two huge energy fields. Bowie, who went to Paris in the early 70s and in 1973 at the Jazz Festival in Montreaux with Dr. Ing. John played it ingeniously to combine free-jazz with funk and to make the debut of his band DEFUNKT to a timeless masterpiece to this day. Discoclipes and rigid jazz patterns are shredded with a lust that even today, 25 years later, it is a pleasure to listen to this cursed musician and his band. Not for nothing was Joseph Bowie hired by other greats like James Brown, David Byrne or the Talking Heads in the studio or on tour. 
This debut offers honest and timeless music and casually gets up very badly...by...wolfgang spinnaker...~ 


Line-up / Musicians 

Bass - Kim Clarke 
Drums - Kenny Martin 
Guitar - Kelvyn Bell , Richard Martin (3) (tracks: A1, B4) , Vernon Reid (tracks: A2 to B3) 
Saxophone - Dave Hubbard 
Trombone, Lead Vocals - Joseph Bowie 
Trumpet - John Mulkerin 
Vocals - Clarice Taylor 
A1 Illusion 5:33
A2 I Tried To Live Alone 5:08
A3 Cocktail Hour (Blue Bossa) 3:26
A4 Ooh Baby 6:05
B1 Avoid The Funk 4:26
B2 Big Bird (Au Private) 2:07
B3 For The Love Of Money 5:54
B4 Believing In Love 7:14 

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