Album number three from Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Chad Smith's jazz side project is probably too early for Smith to go the double-disc live route. That's because nearly all of the tunes are included in his band's two studio sets. This show, recorded at a North Hollywood club in 2009, finally saw release three years later, perhaps to keep the band's name alive while Smith was busy with his full-time Peppers gig. Regardless, the foursome is revved up, and these 15 concert versions are slightly more energized than the previously recorded ones, which were already pretty zippy. Many are extended with longer jams, which push both "Breadballs" and "Into the Floyd" to twice their studio lengths. Considering the live presentation and the group's predilection for '70-styled electric jazz-rock, these performances feature particularly tasty and remarkably restrained playing, even with their longer lengths. Some of the ballads, like the bluesy "Shilo's Forbidden City Blues" and the comparatively delicate "Nightsweats," display the four members' chops and assured sense of dynamics. It's that cohesive interaction that separates these players from similarly oriented outfits who play fast and furious, as if they are paid by the note. Kudos to drummer Smith, one of the rare non-singing bandleaders of his instrument, to refrain from taking an extended drum solo, although he does a short but intense guitar/drum conversation on "Need Strange." That's unusual, particularly when the group kicks into Led Zeppelin
's "Moby Dick," always a spotlight for John Bonham
's skin work. Smith really seems like just one of the guys and even though his percussive work serves as the motor behind the group, and provides the carrot to bring Chili Pepper indie rock and funk fans into the club, he never hogs attention. He doesn't need to, with the quality of the guitar, bass, and keyboard musicians who make this often complex music click so effortlessly with communal playing that remains gripping despite the length of the pieces. Casual listeners might find this an extraneous release, but fans will appreciate the different solos, and new ones can start here to enjoy one of contemporary jazz fusion's tightest and most rugged ensembles.