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Us, Today Explores Intersection of Progressive Rock, Electric Jazz on 'Computant'

(SOUNDBITE OF US, TODAY'S "GREETINGS FROM THE MASTER")

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The vibraphone is rarely heard in hard rock and electric free jazz. But as music critic Jim Fusilli explains, it's at the heart of the music of the jazz trio Us, Today.

JIM FUSILLI, BYLINE: Us, Today formed eight years ago when vibraphonist Kristin Agee met drummer Jeff Mellot and guitarist Joel Griggs. She had studied classical music at Ohio University and wasn't familiar with the instrument's jazz masters, but she adapted quickly as the trio began to play in public.

(SOUNDBITE OF US, TODAY'S "GREETINGS FROM THE MASTER")

FUSILLI: When they added a Miles Davis track to their set list and she took note of Ruth Underwood, who played vibes in Frank Zappa's early bands, a world of new possibilities appeared.

(SOUNDBITE OF US, TODAY'S "GREETINGS FROM THE MASTER")

FUSILLI: On "Computant," their fourth album, Us, Today continues to explore the place where prog rock, electric jazz and jam bands come together. Agee exploits the vibraphone's utility as both a melodic and percussive instrument, teeing up the space for improvisation. In Us, Today, roles are fluid.

(SOUNDBITE OF US, TODAY'S "BEST UNFRIENDS")

FUSILLI: Drummer Mellot favors power over swing, but he knows when to step back. And like Agee, guitarist Griggs can fill the mid-range or solo over the thunder. Now and then on "Computant," they all play percussion until Griggs is ready to roar.

(SOUNDBITE OF US, TODAY'S "BEST UNFRIENDS")

FUSILLI: Though saddled with a cumbersome name, as Google delivers visitors to the website of a certain newspaper, the extra effort to discover Us, Today is worth it. On "Computant," we hear the trio tapping into a range of rock and jazz sounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF US, TODAY'S "SPELLCASTER")

FUSILLI: Some tracks wander into jazz-funk territory. Some sound like indie rock. Brewed together, those sounds, the inventive nature of the trio and a tasty application of the vibraphone make Us, Today a band on the rise that can be savored right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF US, TODAY'S "SHARIN'")

CORNISH: The latest from Us, Today is called "Computant." Our reviewer is Jim Fusilli.

(SOUNDBITE OF US, TODAY'S "SHARIN'") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.