Hop Sauce is a concoction of groove, funk and jazz, balancing improvisation with composition. The band members have a rich, intertwined history of playing together in various projects going as far back as the mid 1980s, some three thousand miles from their current San Francisco Bay Area home base. Since forming in 2012, they have quickly conjured more than an album's worth of original material and established a live-playing presence that suggests they must have shared many stages in past lifetimes. Released in May 2013, Hop Sauce's first recording effort features their diverse compositional prowess blended with an obvious love for in-the-moment playing and tasty improvisation.
For its debut album, the band defaulted to the old-school recording route: play the tunes like in practice and on stage, only add effects that can be stepped-on (Crybaby & Mutron), deal with the inevitable imperfections in the overdub and mixdown process, and take as few days as possible.
The 10-track result bears witness to this closely followed plan. At all times you're in the room with the band amidst a carefully recorded but under-produced atmosphere swaying between tightly rehearsed transitions and spontaneous solos that will never be played the same way again. In as much each member plays his part, there is an acute sense of listening and making space, where each player's voice contributes to this four-way conversation.
The album's common denominators are groove and funk, but splashes of swing ("Do You Know"), extroverted bass lines ("Cshnappy" - yup, that's the right spelling) and lazy, behind the beat riffs ("Emackadoo", "Esteban" and "Jelly, Baby") add to the equation. There's a tad of shuffle ("G'Vino"), a tad of jam ("Be Groove"), a bit of bounce ("Cascade"), and an up-tempo track that celebrates the B3 ("Belly Up"). Rounding off the effort, the final track ("The Ballad of Ms. Tyckle") only steps away from the plan ever so slightly with a few, added-later brush strokes of gentle effects to enhance its introspective mood.