Tentacles reach out to America

July 15, 1999|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Just because a band jams doesn't make it a jam band. What Americans tend to think of as "jam bands" have a loose, boogie-spiked improvisational style somewhere between the sound of Blues Traveler and the Grateful Dead. Which is almost nothing like the sound of Britain's Ozric Tentacles.

Even though the quintet is every bit as prone to jamming as Phish, the Ozrics are synth-drenched with a strong Eastern element to the melodies. In fact, Ozric Tentacles' sound has much more in common with space rock combos like Camel or jazz fusion acts like Weather Report than with the amiable meanderings of the Dead and its disciples.

"In America, the music comes from a blues background, more than from a space-rock background," observes Ozrics guitarist (and founder) Ed Wynne. "Which is a nice thing. Healthy differences, if you like."

Nonetheless, there are some similarities between Ozric Tentacles and its American cousins.

Take, for example, the group's playfully absurd name. "We've always been ones for saying silly words," says Wynne. "Our album titles and track titles have always been strange words that we've sort of half-invented, and this was just another one.

"At first, when we were playing festivals, we didn't even have a name, and people would come up and say, 'What's the name of the band?' I said, 'Ozric Tentacles' just for a joke one day, and it kind of stuck. "But it turns out 'Ozric' is a name. It's an actual Christian name, but it's spelled with an 's,' not a 'z.' It comes from Northern Europe, and it turns out 'Osric' means 'divine energy.' And 'tentacles' was just another thing to add to it, but it implies reaching out and stretching around the globe. Which is quite nice."

At this point, however, the Ozrics' tentacles haven't quite reached out all the way around the globe. Although the group has a gained quite a following in Britain and in Europe, it remains almost unknown here.

Wynne says that his group's low profile can in part be blamed on the fact that four years have passed since the band's last U.S. tour. "We tried a couple of times to come over, and for one reason or another -- logistical, financial or whatever -- it just fell through," he says. "But now that we've made it, it feels so nice."

Although the band has a new album, "Waterfall Cities," in the stores, its live show is very much off-the-cuff and of-the-moment. "Ill hear a chord coming from Seaweed across the stage, and I'll play the [corresponding] scale, then Zia on the bass will pick up on that," says Wynne, explaining how the band's improvisational interplay works.

"It's all fairly random," he says, and laughs. "Luckily, enough times, it seems to work."

Ozric Tentacles When: Tonight at 10 (doors open at 9 p.m.)

Where: Recher Theatre, 512 York Road

Tickets: $20

Call: 410-481-6500 for tickets, 410-337-7210 for information

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