Anyone who doubts math rock’s compatibility with jazz/fusion needs only to give a listen to Jorge Arana Trio’s excellent 2014 EP, entitled Oso, and they will inevitably come to realize how the two work together like chocolate and peanut butter. The entire release feels very tight in its execution, but many sections give off a purely improvisational vibe, where Arana (the band’s namesake and guitarist) shines through with his wild soloing. ‘Crime of Passion Fruit’ is a prime example of this. Nearly its entire two-minute-forty-second runtime is spent working through just a handful of riffs, while the rhythm section keeps the song flowing and the guitar is free to explore dissonant, spiderwebbing patterns.
Much like The Mars Volta’s spanish/jazz/rock experiment, Oso brings in the flavor of world music, while still keeping the Kansas City, Missouri trio feeling familiar to American audiences. In fact, the record feels very Mars Volta from start to finish, albeit more succinct. Much like Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Jorge Arana seems to use his guitar more like a conductor’s baton as he leads his bandmates from structured rock and roll to improv jams. On the whole, it feels more raw than The Mars Volta ever did, making me to feel like I was listening to some kind of unholy offspring of At The Drive-In and John Coltrane
When I try to compare this to other math rock releases, I tend to come up a bit dry. A little bit of The Physics House Band comes to mind, but I mostly tend to feel a greater connection to the likes of Frank Zappa rather than anything in today’s sonic landscape. This record definitely has all the makings of a math rock staple: excellent chops, odd time signatures, a little start-stop jumpiness, but sonically very different in its execution. If there is anyone that will be responsible for bringing jazz-fusion into the fold as another math rock collaborator, the Jorge Arana Trio certainly seems to be an early contender.