Click to hear: “Gone Too Long”
The Beat Horizon is a local dance band for hire, and this is their first CD, a six-song EP of original material packaged to promote. The group markets its sound as a mix of reggae, ska, Afrobeat, funk, hip hop and Latin music. In practice, it’s basically reggae with hints and elements of the rest.
As dance music, it works. The band is comprised of some seasoned Portland musicians, like the rhythm section of drummer Tim Myers (The Piners, Sabertooth Nudist, etc.) and bassist Greg Goodwin (Dominique Lise, with Myers, most recently). Dave Butts does triple duty on keyboards, sax and flute, and Justin Brown rounds out the group on guitar. The playing is tight and professional — nothing too fancy or surprising.
It’s singer Donovan “Bigga” Reid who elevates The Beat Horizon above the reggae-bar-band standard. The Jamaican frontman has a strong voice and a genuine feel for the music. His style bears the influence of Michael Franti, whose genre-melding work with Spearhead has clearly influenced the group as a whole.
The flute on numbers like “Jump Around” and the rock-funk-reggae fusion “Gone Too Long” also helps the band stand out, but for the most part, Beat Horizon plays it straight. At least on record, they eschew solos and resist the temptation to stretch the grooves out. (Their live gigs are likely another matter.) Lyrically, the themes are what you’d expect: make peace, make love, fight for justice, keep dancing. All fine and good.
In time, The Beat Horizon could grow to become a more distinctive and adventurous act. They’re still a fairly new group, and the talent’s there. But for now, they seem focused on establishing the foundation of their sound and keeping people moving, not guessing. In these uncertain times, I suppose there’s some comfort in that.
— Chris Busby
The Beat Horizon plays a CD release show on Sat., Oct. 18, with openers Parker House and Theory, at The Big Easy, 55 Market St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Call for cover (21+). 775-2266. bigeasyportland.com. myspace.com/thebeathorizon.