28 May 2020 (released)
06 July 2020
Blues and jazz have had many run-ins with one another over the years. The strong basic structure of the blues being infiltrated by jazzy modalities. The flittering overindulgence of jazz getting tempered by a blues-rock sensibility. The go-to band for this amalgamation is Steely Dan. Donald Fagan, Walter Becker and their crew forged a sound that captured the emotion of blues-rock with a refinement brought on by jazz to form a genre of their own.
Fremont California birthed, Seattle-based project Sundogs follows in the footsteps of those jazz fusion masters with a skilled album of crispy blues-rock solo riffs over creamy jazz keyboard. The project is a product of the musical partnership of guitarist Stan Snow and keyboardist Jed Moffitt. Their latest release The Code even boasts guest appearances from legendary musicians Alan White (John Lennon, YES) and Ben Smith (Heart). The Code is their quirky take on the new emerging conventions of the modern world mixed with a dash of good old nostalgia.
A strong nod to The Who kicks off the record with the sizzling 1:30 opener 'I Want It Now'. The bubbling tremolo organ, firecracker tom fills, and big broad chord strums all point to the influence of the British bangers. Snow lays down some rollicking solo licks as their opening statement comes and goes in a flash. From there 'Mystery Car' settles into the more laid back feel that pervades the album. Roundly chiming keys and a steady beat back this ode to a steel machine while Snow wails away.
'Pick It Up' takes the curious situation we currently live in with our every consumable desire being shipped to us every day. A vast network of goods being flung back and forth through the skies ordered unconsciously with the push of a button. A computer screen glow lighting every home, the hub for all of our relationships. Is it an indictment or a mere observation? The duo approaches it with a calm skepticism. Moffitt's keys flutter giving the track a kinetic energy.
'Hard Life' leans into the blues side, led by a Gary Moore style series of bends. 'Jennifer' slows things down to a tucked-away lounge vibe. Musings on an enigmatic lady. Later album track 'Freedom' showcases harmonized vocals that elevate it above the rest of the album. The effect is arresting and shows the band at their best. No doubt the momentum of the track is aided by the help of Alan White's propulsive drumming.
The Code is a solid piece of blues-jazz fusion. Both musicians display a command of their instruments both in the bold solo sections and more elegant solo moments. The vocals tend to have a humble fragility to them which works for some tracks but the layers of vocals on 'Freedom' really make it soar and stand out as the album's best. Hopefully, more like that are to come in the future.