FRACTAL ARK with the Pocket Dwellers, MOSES MAYES AND THE FUNK FAMILY ORCHESTRA and DJ AbDominal & FASE at Revival (783 College), Friday (March 1), 10 pm. $12. 416-535-7888.
Although Philadelphia's proud musical history has been well documented, the crucial resuscitative role played by its artists over the years has rarely been properly acknowledged.
Yet from Jimmy Smith shaking up the bebop scene of the late 50s, John Coltrane's exploratory spiritual trip of the 60s and Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's 70s soul salvation to Schooly D's late-80s hiphop jolt and the Roots' beat breakthrough in the 90s, whenever music seemed to be getting stale, you could always count on someone from the City of Brotherly Love to offer a timely ass-kick that would bring things roaring back to life.
Tough acts to follow, but Philly groove unit Fractal Ark -- involving session guitarist Tim Motzer (Ursula Rucker, King Britt), poet/flautist Elliot Levin (Cecil Taylor, Odean Pope), sub bassist Barry Meehan (the Bears), keyboardist Mark Boyce (Delta 72) and turntablist DJ Ian Jolah Riddle (Ghat Math) -- have the skills and the wisdom to liven up a jam-band genre overpopulated by wank specialists.
A brief sampling of the brain-scattering improvisations on their recent Live Vol. 2 disc should be proof enough that Fractal Ark have what it takes to create in the moment as a group rather than merely exchanging solos.
"What makes playing with Fractal Ark so exciting is the experimental nature of the group," says Motzer from Philadelphia. "We come to each gig ready to improvise the entire set. It's all based on what DJ Jolah does with his turntables and beatbox, and then we each build on that and move out from there.
"We've done 24 shows now, and the more we play together the more this sound gels. Having Mark Boyce come aboard with his incredibly funky keyboard parts has helped bring it all together."
But laying stone-solid grooves over house and broken beats isn't enough for Fractal Ark -- they intend to bring the studio to the stage.
"With the technology available now you can cut and paste beats, pitch things up and down and manipulate minute sounds in endless ways in the recording studio.
"What we need to do next is to bring these sound concepts into a performance context and create this sound with instruments. The challenge for us and the audience is to keep the music moving forward -- that's what Fractal Ark is all about."