Hammer and String

When CDs arrive, it is hard not to have assumptions. Hush Money had me expecting a program in the mold of many other recent instrumental discs led by electric keyboardists: lots of Wurlitzer and B-3, lots of secondhand funk.

Assumption incorrect. (The presence of a bassoonist in the credits should have been a tipoff.) The shuffling beat and plaintive piano of the opening title track creates a gospel/funk feeling, but once a few bars have gone by it’s apparent that there is more complex music on hand. Although former Fat Mama keyboardist Erik Deutsch puts a large keyboard arsenal to use, his compositional skills are the focus here: throughout the disc he offers thick harmonies and twisting melodies that take a few listens to unravel.

Firm grooves from drummer Marc Dalio underpin most of the tracks, and seething guitar from Jon Goldberger provides a rock connection. There are also solos, primarily from Deutsch and reed player Mike McGinnis, but Deutsch’s themes make the strongest impression. Two tracks (“Dirty Osso Bucco” and “Quittin’ Time”) venture into funk, but they come as a contrast to the more introspective moods of the rest.

“Get Out While You Can” is an addition to the long list of Radiohead-influenced instrumental music of this decade; now and then there are echoes of the noir moods of Tortoise, and there is a bit of _Hot Rat_s in the mix as well. Mostly, though, Deutsch’s music sounds like itself. Hush Money is among the most absorbing instrumental discs of this year.