Bottomland is an apt name for a group that brings in the funk on the ground level, reveling in polyrhythmic percussion and percolating bass lines. Hovering over the earthy grooves (or sometimes punctuating them) is a colorful weave of sounds -- flute, trumpet, keyboards, guitars, fiddle and, best of all, singer Amikaeyla Gaston's sinuous voice, sultry and spirited by turns.
Some of the tunes on the band's new album evoke the influence of early fusion jazz -- and not just because trumpeter Clifton Brockington displays a knack for recalling Miles Davis's soulful lyricism on "Ah Jua," "Sunlight Underwater" and other tracks. The fusion influence is also evident in the band's frequently spiritual and romantic lyrics. But because there's nothing that sounds particularly dated or conspicuously retro on the album, it's easy to imagine Bottomland enhancing a world beat concert or comfortably filling out a contemporary jazz bill or even opening for a bunch of neo-funk rockers like the Dave Matthews Band. Rhythmic drive is a powerful common denominator, after all.
Nine members strong, the band produced its debut album with the help of some talented guests, including former Trapezoid fiddler Cheryl Hurwitz and local guitar virtuoso Al Petteway. The result is an ensemble quite capable of soothing souls and stirring feet at the same time.
Appearing Tuesday at Blues Alley.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Bottomland, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8123. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)