A full house at the beautifully expanded new Sportsmen's Tavern welcomed the reunion of Gamalon on Friday.
By the end of the first tune, jaws were dropping, fists were pumping, and an air of excitement that would remain throughout this revered prog-fusion band's twin sets was already in evidence.
Gamalon has been home to some of the area's finest musicians over the years, but this particular lineup -- a quartet comprised of guitarists George Puleo and Bruce Brucato, drummer Ted Reinhardt and his bassist brother Tom Reinhardt -- is perhaps the best-loved. Concentrating on its self-titled 1987 album, the band combined stunning musicianship, ensemble virtuosity, and an ebullient funkiness to blow the minds of the eagerly assembled.
Jazz fusion has been much maligned by nonbelievers over the years, but Gamalon reminded us why this genre, when the players are as outstanding as these, can be so moving. A tune like "Black Licorice" offered a suitable case in point -- over a supple, funky groove conjured and maintained by the Reinhardts, Brucato and Puleo worked twin guitar magic, blending greasy double-stops with searing, soaring solos.
Puleo is a player very much in the Mike Stern school, employing an elegant distorted rock tone while playing decidedly jazzy lines. Brucato played his Fender Strat mostly finger-style, and his lines were angular, surprising, harmonically dense and celebratory.
"Beat the Heat" offered another highlight, and a chance for Ted Reinhardt to employ the roiling polyrhythms and incredible chops that have been his stock in trade for decades. Again, the tune married the compositional complexity of progressive rock with the advanced improvisational aspects of jazz. Making this work -- enabling the music to flow easily and in an organic manner, despite its dazzling complexity -- is Gamalon's most striking ability.
It should be noted that, with the current Renaissance in young jam and fusion bands in our area, Gamalon has assumed the role of elder statesmen to the movement. That these incredible musicians hail from our city should be cause for considerable civic pride.
Man, what a show. Let's hope it's not too long before these guys get together again.
Friday night in the Sportsmen's Tavern, 326 Amherst St.