Garage A Trois have been a festival favorite since debuting at Jazzfest in 1999, when they first were introduced in the form of Skerik, Stanton Moore and Charlie Hunter in what was thought more to be a superjam format. That same year saw the release of Mysteryfunk, so it became apparent this supergroup might stick around for a while.
They continued to do small tours from time to time, and bagged most of the major US festivals over the next few years. Along the way the band was augmented by Mike Dillion on vibes and other random percussion. But after the release of the successful Emphasizer and Outre Mer albums, Charlie Hunter departed, and keyboard virtuoso Marco Benevento joined the fold. Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil finds a finely tuned machine delivering unique, hard-driving grooves and a completely new identity.
Mike Dillon is responsible for writing the larger part of the album’s tracks, certainly with equal parts contribution in chemistry by the other musical scientists in the band. Album opener "Omar" starts off with Dillon’s vibes ringing out in elongated tones before Stanton Moore all out assaults his drum kit, kicking things into overdrive right off the bat. Moore and Dillon have such a powerful presence as percussionists, creating a backbone strong enough to support skyscrapers built from Skerik’s sax and Benevento’s organ.
The album has many textures, each song bristling like a different beast then the one before. "Shooting Breaks" finds the band again soaring through a sonic soundscape, the driving drums somehow tamed by the hypnotizing work of Benevento and Skerik. Beautiful interludes like "Kansas" link "Shooting Breaks" and the Benevento penned track, "Swellage." Take any horror movie, add "Swellage" to the soundtrack and instantly it would become a better. In many ways the whole album plays out like a movie soundtrack, a shoe-in for something spooky.
Garage A Trois has created another masterful album, but is it perfect for all listeners? Maybe not. It is equal parts assault, pleasure, uncertainty and bliss; however, if you are into musical journeys, buy the ticket and take the ride.
Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil is out now on The Royal Potato Family.