Calm Down Cologne (Royal Potato Family)

Garage a Trois

Released April 16, 2021

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2021




Garage A Trois return in the form from which they were born 22 years earlier with a new studio album, ‘Calm Down Cologne.’ Comprised by guitarist Charlie Hunter, saxophonist Skerik and drummer Stanton Moore, OG GAT released its debut album ‘Mysteryfunk’ to wide acclaim in 1999. The band evolved over the pursuant years in various configurations before eventually going on hiatus following its 2015 album, ‘Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil.’ In 2019, however, the original three piece line-up reunited for a handful of shows. This would also result in an afternoon spent recording at Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho in Seattle, right across the street from where the band was playing a sold out, three night run at Nectar Lounge. Ace engineer Randall Dunn was invited to document the proceedings and captured the resulting album in one magical session. Dunn would take the tracks back to AVAST! Recording Co. for mixing. With all but a few edits on beginnings and ends of performances, Calm Down Cologne presents the music as it was played in the studio that day.
A high-stepping mind/body elixir, ‘Calm Down Cologne’ finds Garage A Trois in full improvisational flight, composing live, in the moment, on the studio floor. Charlie Hunter on the Hybrid Big6 and Stanton Moore on the drums and cymbals are locked in a mountainous groove throughout. Simultaneously, Skerik conjures the melodic lines with one hand on the saxophone and the other on a clutch of analog keys: Modal 001 synth, Rhodes 54 and Mellotron, among them. The jaunty title track is the only pre-composed piece on the collection, while Seattle singer Christa Wells adds the LP’s sole overdub—a Stereolab-esque inspired vocal matching the sax/keys line on aptly-titled “The Epic.”
Set opener “No Zone” finds OG GAT channeling Stuff with Eddie Harris sitting in. The outcome is electrifying. The album’s centerpiece, the massive “In-A-Pro-Pro,” stretches ten-plus minutes as it checks a number of vital boxes for which Garage A Trois are celebrated: stone cold funk, outer-space breakbeats, ‘70s ‘On The Corner’ guitar grease. Ever the masters of shapeshifting, OG GAT seamlessly reconfigure course on “Numinous,” a dubbed-out descent that winds down the record.
As for the rather curious album title, the story goes that legendary underground Seattle artist Rick Klu gave Skerik the idea when he was describing a bouncer having to use some ‘calm down cologne’ on an unruly patron. More metaphorically speaking, a whiff of Garage A Trois’ new magic potion elicits a “free your mind and your ass will follow” response—truly a much needed balm in these anxiety-ridden times.

Track Listing:

1. No Zone 09:11

2. The Epic 06:49

3. Calm Down Cologne 02:36

4. In-A-Pro-Pro 10:09

5. Numinous 07:01


Charlie Hunter: hybrid Big6
Stanton Moore: drums & cymbals
Skerik: saxophones, Modal 001 synth, Rhodes 54 & Mellotron
Christa Wells: vocals (2)

Recorded February 3, 2019, at Studio Litho

Recorded and Mixed by Randall Dunn

Mastered by Greg Obis

Design: Gregory J. Del Deo

Artwork: Olie Eshleman


The first Garage A Trois album to feature the original lineup since 2005, 2021’s Calm Down Cologne finds guitarist Charlie Hunter, saxophonist/keyboardist Skerik, and drummer Stanton Moore conjuring the kinetic, psychedelic funk-jazz of their early work. Since coming together in 1999, Garage A Trois have built a distinctive oeuvre, smashing together harmonically adventurous jazz improvisation, hard-driving funk grooves, and explosive sci-fi soundscapes. However, following 2005’s Outre Mer, Hunter stepped away from the group, with keyboardist Marco Benevento and percussionist Mike Dillon taking his place. While that version of Garage A Trois was equally distinctive, it was easy to miss the edgy, fuzz-tone electric guitar bite that Hunter brought to their sound. Thankfully, the original lineup reunited in 2019, rekindling their fiery funk energy with a handful of live shows. Hoping to capture that energy on tape, they entered Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho in Seattle, where they recorded live in one day with engineer Randall Dunn. Consequently, there’s a stripped-down quality to the trio’s work on Calm Down Cologne. It’s one that’s built from the ground up as the New Orleans-bred Moore pushes his bandmates with colossal, tree-trunk beats. The album opens in hyper-drive fashion with “No Zone,” a nervy anthem marked by a neck-cracking James Brown rhythm, a buggy, radar guitar riff, and an acidic, dual sax and keyboard melody. At the center of the record is the boogaloo-infused title track, a bright, frenetic club song that brings to mind the volcanic avant-funk of artists like guitarist Sonny Sharrock and saxophonist Eddie Harris. Equally evocative moments crop up elsewhere, as on “The Epic” and the bluesy, Sanford and Son theme-sounding “In-A-Pro-Pro,” in which Skerik’s eerie sax and Hunter’s wah-wah guitar bring to mind the avant-garde ’70s space jazz of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band. The album ends in chilled-out style with the woozy, gothic hippie slow jam “Numinous.” Calm Down Cologne is a propulsive, textural, ear-grabbing experience.

Matt Collar (AllMusic)