Guitarist Mark Ormerod has been making the scene in New Paltz for what seems like about half of forever now. A Swiss Army knife of a player who moves effortlessly between blues and its jazzier variants, funk and soul, acoustic rag, psychedelic and hi-fidelity tribute playing to whichever axe legend or classic band you please, Ormerod’s supple, tuneful, low-ego playing might leave locals wondering why this veteran cat is not a bit higher-profile on the regional guitar radar.
Well, maybe his essential modesty and the way that he privileges ensemble musical values over ego are part of the issue here? Ormerod is on the eve of releasing OROD, the eponymous debut album by his instrumental and (accurately) self-described soul/rock quartet, which features his longtime bandmates Mark Beaumont and Robert Kemp on bass and drums, respectively, and a hell of foil in Orange County keyboard whiz Jeremy Baum. On paper, instrumental soul/rock just screams solos, solos, solos – and then, perhaps, if you’re in the mood, another solo. While OROD has its fair share of hot leads, including a satisfying serving of typically elegant and understated Hammond flights by the gifted Baum, the point of OROD resides elsewhere, in its deep commitment to riffs, grooves and single-effect ensemble statements.
To get down with this, you are going to have to give yourself over to the background-in-search-of-foreground, something-might-be-missing-here aesthetic of instrumental rock. Once you have stopped waiting for Anthony Kiedes to show up with a spiel to slather atop such modern funk/rock workouts as “Show Me Somethin’” and the bluesier “Head 4,” you have begun to get the message: The riff is the thing, the great rainbow of riff.
OROD makes that adjustment easier by demonstrating such fluent command of so many modes of riffage and so many organic grooves. Many of the tracks here are straight-up, smoldering groove-blues, which these guys handle with ease and effervescence; but they go places, too. My favorites here all have a bit of a wink or a sneer in their intent: The Booker T-tinged spooky rock of the album-opening “El Bandito,” the ultracool slabby modern rock of “No Deal,” the cheeky garage Latin of “Come with Me Tonight,” the outrageous Gilmouresque sheets of guitar on “Supercharged.”
OROD is an album of strong, definitive compositional moves and joyous, egoless playing. The vibe is democratic, fraternal, together: meat and butter and bread and potatoes, ultimately cooked into something more exotic and singular than you might think upon first spin (spin being an important word, as OROD is available in a limited vinyl release).
You don’t even have to ask how it plays live. It was born there and thrives there. What may surprise you is how well it plays on record.
OROD record release show with Rev. Television’s Whiz Bang & the Sweet Clementines, Wednesday, October 1, 7 p.m., voluntary donation, the Falcon, 13498 Route 9W, Marlboro; www.liveatthefalcon.com.