New Brunswick jam ‘n’ groovers Professor Caveman’s latest, “Vol. 4,” is a venture into a jazz-funk fusion for the indie rockers that sounds like a cross between the Latin jazz-rock of Santana, the groovedelic brilliance of Prince and the nonsensical funky fun of Primus.
By recruiting and surrounding himself with more and more Rutgers jazz cats such as keyboardist Johnnycola, main Professor Caveman Rob Romano has distinguished himself as a leader of a really great band. I recently saw them live for the fourth time at Hub City Sounds: ROCK New Brunswick in Boyd Park, and they were magnificent, kind of like a cross between the Latin jazz-rock of Santana, the funkadelic pop of Prince, and the funky fun of Primus.
In past years, Professor Caveman was jazzy, but more of an indie rock band. While they still scratch that indie rock itch, their chops are way beyond the majority of indie-rock bands. And while the lyrics and vocals are kind of nonsensical, like Primus, they do serve as an additional instrument. They don’t really tell a story — they don’t really say much of anything — but at times they’re extremely pretty in their high register, and they do move the songs along and make for a very interesting additional entry point.
It says in the notes to Professor Caveman’s latest album, Vol. 4, that it was hastily put together, but the finely crafted layers of jazz, indie rock, hip-hop, funk and electric dance music don’t sound hasty at all. I can’t wait to hear what Professor Caveman will do next with more time on their hands. I’m sure it will be brilliant.
On Vol. 4, as well as live, the jams ‘n’ grooves are as righteous as the rain. I especially love the five-song EP’s second track, “The Virtu of the Harpe (for fela),” with its sweet Prince-like falsetto; frantic, driving beat; tribal backing vocals; nuanced keyboard and synthesizer flourishes, and smooth, yet sexy Steely Dan-ish guitar runs.
I also love the elastic guitar notes of and robotic synth sound of “Cardioversion (for tim)” and the dichotomous closer, “Babies (for joe lee Wilson).” On that track, Romano combines a bubbly, Jerry Garcia-like guitar sound with a Hawaiian slack key vibe and Bossa Nova styling reminiscent of Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto. But just when you think you’ve got the track figure out, it breaks down into a hip-hop scratch at its conclusion. Awesome! I love the diversity!
Do yourself a favor and go see Professor Caveman with their many Sniffling Indie Kids labelmates at North Jersey Indie Rock Festival on Oct. 6 at White Eagle Hall. Also reppin’ SIK will be LKFFCT, Secretary Legs, Smock and The Vaughns. The festival also will feature Mint 400 Records’ Yawn Mower, Tony Saxon, Shithead’s Rainbow, Guilty Giraffe, The Components and Ultra Major; Rhyme & Reason recording acts Glenn Morrow’s Cry for Help, Black Wail and The Royal Arctic Institute, State Champion’s Glazer, Ex-Maid and Dentist and Psychiatric Metaphors of Little Dickman Records. Also playing the festival that night at an after party will be Caveman label mates Tru and Mint 400 recording act The Vice Rags down Newark Avenue at FM Bar.
Bob Makin is the reporter for MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. And like Makin Waves at facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.