Like Oliver Lake, the avant-gardist who first brought Gunn to New York, Gunn dedicates himself to the world of black music, not any particular definition of jazz. But unlike the historical avant-garde, Gunn locates his sound in the great stream of black popular music rather than in the outer reaches of screaming phonics. While comparisons between Gunn's ethnomusicology and Miles Davis' fusion period are hyperbolic -- the young Gunn's formal experiments haven't had the same cultural effect as the Man With the Horn's -- Gunn is equally willing to locate himself outside the boundaries of jazz convention.
For Volume 2, Gunn went solo in the producer's booth, and the result is fatter bottom-end rhythms and leaner song arrangements. Where 1 sought its kicks in lush, horn-hooked riffs, 2 prefers motorbooty propulsion, with space cleared out on top for the leader to solo. Featuring occasional helium-headed vocals by Gunn and otherworldly sonic flavors by DJ Apollo, the songs land squarely in the camp of George Clintonesque funk. (Apollo is replaced by Neil Armstrong on tour.)
To balance his originals, Gunn reworks classics by Thelonious Monk ("Epistrophy") and Duke Ellington ("Caravan" and "It Don't Mean a Thing," now rendered as "Go-Go Swing"). While the results are ear-opening, the songs remain static on record. Flexed live, however, they should be different beasts, seen through Gunn's vision of 21st-century classical music.