Record Review 

Two Phishermen, two very different kettles of fish. Following Trey Anastasio's lead, drummer Jon Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon put their sabbatical from Phish to good use, releasing projects only tangentially related to their mother-band. Yet both boast the freewheeling eclecticism inherent in their full-time outfit.

Gordon connected with one of his idols, Leo Kottke, after handing the acoustic guitarist a tape in which he dubbed bass parts onto a Kottke composition. Phone calls were exchanged, and Clone is the result. A successful merging of Kottke's jittery chord changes and Gordon's bass, piano and occasional guitar, the album is a true joint project. Both sing in voices that are an acquired taste, but serve these quirky folk, country and blues pieces well. Veering from the traditional duet "Strange" to the peculiar, dusky avant-garde ruminations of Gordon's "Clay," the disc cohesively demonstrates both musicians' strengths.

Coherence, however, is not a word that describes Fishman's Pork Tornado. In a very loose-limbed collaboration, these five musicians hopscotch from R&B to blues, Bob Wills' country swing, honky-tonk, jazz, Tom Waits-styled ballads and some very non-PC hard funk with "Kiss My Black Ass" -- the latter sung by the band's only black member, saxist Joe Moore. The scattershot approach shows a refreshing lack of adherence to any specific style, although the specter of self-indulgence permeates the album. Silly but fun once you trim the fat, Pork Tornado makes a tasty sidedish -- at least for diehard Phishheads.

Pork Tornado plays the Variety Playhouse Sat., Nov. 9. Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon play the Variety Playhouse Tues., Nov. 12.


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