I’m undoubtedly engaging in some self-justification for having slept all winter on Greg Abbot’s Initial Thoughts, which was released last November, but as the warm, tropical tones of opener “Akwaaba” washed over my ears last month, I knew the timing was right to finally write this review. This is springtime and summer music inspired by the sounds of the Southern Hemisphere: Africa, South America, the Caribbean. Jamming it in January would just be a tease.
A multi-instrumentalist with a focus on guitar, Abbot (who’s also a longtime brewmaster at Liquid Riot, on Portland’s waterfront) built most of these instrumental tracks himself, with contributions from a few friends. Keyboardist Kyle Friday helps thicken the jungle atmosphere of “Akwaaba” and lift the space-funk of “Gadiga” into the stratosphere. Bassist Andrew Pelczar animates “Rainforest Concerto” with funky and exotic licks as percussive instruments party in the background and Abbot carves a jazzy guitar groove.
The funk cut “Swagger” is made more entertaining by the slightly comical intonation of the effect pedals and bass keys; it’s like Abbot is doing a dead-on impression of some swaggering dude, and in case you missed the wink, he gives the track a little ukulele coda. “Swagger” is also one of the few places where Abbot gives himself a solo; most of the compositions on Initial Thoughts are two or three minutes long, which may explain the title.
On “Demi Leif,” Abbot’s thoughts turn dark and menacing. It’s a killer hard-funk number, the perfect foil for some equally intimidating rap, and (you guessed it) we get that too: a remix at the end upon which Shameek the God promises to “haunt you in your dreams” and explicitly threatens Batman with bodily harm (kids, never do that). During a recent visit to the Riot, Abbot told me he’s been collaborating with other local rappers, as well. I can’t wait to hear that stuff, and next time I won’t sleep on the write-up.