In What Remains

It takes real confidence for a singer to belt something a cappella. Likewise, an instrumental group must have serious faith in its chops to forego attention-drawing elements like vocals and lyrics. For the Portland trio Micromassé, that faith is not misplaced. Organist and lead songwriter Peter Dugas, guitarist Max Cantlin and drummer Chris Sweet play with a breezy dexterity that belies the thorniness of their compositions, not to mention that have-it-or-you-don’t ability to turn a rhythm into a groove. On its second LP, In What Remains, the group applies its classic Jimmy Smith arrangements to an impressive array of genres, from the sauntering Booker T. funk of “Truth and Beauty (Part 2)” to the Latin balladry of “Arrow Song” and the jubilant Afrobeat of the appropriately titled “Gladness of May.” By keeping the instrumentation consistent — not adding, say, castanets to their Latin forays — the group illustrates how the lines between genres can be crossed by the inflection you put on a note, or the way you dance up and down a scale. And while there’s plenty of soloing going on, it never gets in the way of the ultimate goal of getting heads nodding. These guys are so deep in the pocket, they’re spelunking.

— Joe Sweeney

Micromassé plays an album-release show at One Longfellow Square on April 28.

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