In the past few years, electric bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma has won fans and favorably influenced critics for his work with guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer and Ornette Coleman's Prime Time band. Judging by Tacuma's performance at the 9:30 club Friday night, his own group, Cosmetic, will further enhance his reputation.
A trio, Cosmetic often augments its lineup for the occasion. In this case, dance music was clearly the objective, and alto saxophonist James Watkins' bold, invigorating lines were added to ferociously dancable rhythms. Drummer Rick McClary aggressively anchored the beat and guitarist Timothy Murphy's skittering effects and tonal sweeps brought a colorful edge to what was basically an R&B update.
But Tacuma? He was tireless. His unusually insistant melodic approach, slapping accents and circular rhythmic patterns combined to make dance music of the most buoyant and joyous sort.
Jules Baptiste, a guitarist best known for his work with Laurie Anderson, later performed with his quintet, Red Decade. Unlike Cosmetic, Red Decade emphasized keening saxophones and guitar over a rather static rhythmic base. As a result, the music often seemed stiff and lifeless. If the band has more to offer, its disappointingly brief opening set concealed it well.