BY RICHARD HARRINGTON Punk-funk-jazz, the genre that weds the adventurousness of avant-garde jazz and the commercially viable rhythms of urban funk, ranges from the challenging harmolodic experimentation of James "Blood" Ulmer to the thoroughly accessible James Brown- meets-Jimi-Hendrix vacuity of Defunkt. It's a lot easier to dance to Defunkt.
Led by trombonist Joseph Bowie, Defunkt comes to the stage by way of the jazz loft rather than the street corner. As a leader, Bowie is Maceo Parker molding a punchy, expansive ensemble sound; but as a soloist he's a bit more Miles Davis, inquisitive, ambiguous, with abbreviated statements jumping out from the swirling funk frame. Trumpet player John Mulkerin skitters in and out of the straightfowrard melodies, his horn providing the punctuation to Kim Clark's finger-popping bass lines and drummer Kenny Martin's percolating percussion. Most of the players here have honed their skills in jazz bands, ensembles and societies, where attendance seems to be concentrated on players, not listeners. Perhaps rejection gives Defunkt its almost angry edge.
As a dance band, Defunkt is best at break- neck rhythms -- ''Illusion," the tongue-in- cheek, feet-firmly-in-the-groove "Avoid the Funk," and the boppish escapade and tribute to Charlie Parker, "Big Bird (Au Private)" on which the band's jazz roots are well displayed. There's also the low-key and surpringly mellow "Cocktail Hour (Blue Bossa)", a bossa-nova-like piece that provides a sensuous showcase for Bowie's strong, blustery trombone and Kelvyn Bell's adventurous guitar lines. It's atypical, and shows Defunkt isn't as one-dimensional as some critics claim.
However, problems that plagued Defunkt's debut album are still evident: Bowie's vocals are unsophisticated and the lyrics are cliched; thesolo opportunities are limited by the band's emphasis on seamless, up-tempo rhythms (the guitars of Bell, Richard Martin and Vernon Reid seem particularly wasted); extended tunes that work on the dance floor tire much more quickly on vinyl. Still, for the raw sound of rhythm and power, Defunkt is hard to beat.
ON RECORD, ON STAGE
THE ALBUM -- Thermonuclear Sweat (Hannibal HNBL1311).
THE SHOW -- Defunkt, with the Static Disruptors, Friday at the 9:30 Club.