The AltoRays Go To The Hop – In Another Dimension

The Austin ChillJazz duo zoom from the swingin’ ‘60s to the future on their new cut.

The AltoRays take you back to the groovy future with the psychedelic funk-jazz of their latest single The Hop — showcasing today on Tinnitist.

With a percolating bass line, snappy percussion, tasty horn and keyboard hits and improvised vocal scats, The Hop — the third single from the Austin duo’s debut album Back To The Light — is a time trip that zooms between the swingin’ ’60s and the future.

“It’s a groovin’ dance mixed with layered vocals, sleek guitar riffs and off-the-wall improv,” says Mitch Watkins, the Austin guitarist, composer and producer who is half of The AltoRays.

Watkins and his partner, Montréal-born vocalist Dianne Donovan, have combined their hunger for exploration, experimentation and mad scientist motivation to craft a sound they call ChillJazz — a fresh approach to a genre with deep roots and tradition.

“It took a pandemic!” Watkins says, giving silver-lining credit to Covid for creating enough downtime to create the long-planned Back To The Light, released in November 2021. “The music is unlike anything either of us have done before. Instead of straight-ahead jazz, we explored every music form that has ever influenced us, from Steely Dan to Weather Report to Philip Glass to groove, R&B and pop.”

Collaborating in what they fondly call the Pent-Up House, Watkins and Donovan found the great flow of creativity to be unstoppable. “There was something truly magical about those late-night sessions,” he recalls. “The spirit was uninhibited, and we’d try anything and everything.”

The Hop is perfectly representative of those anything-goes sessions and has a freewheeling video by E. Buschek to visually underline it all. “The psychedelic video reflects pop of the ’60’s in more innocent times,” says Watkins.

Donovan’s vocals on The Hop — and throughout Back To The Light — are wordless, improvisational and melodically textured creating their own song within a song. “This is the freest I’ve ever been as a vocalist,” she says. “I got to explore the multi ranges of my voice and the textures, from an all-hummed tune to all-whispered singing, to animal sounds.”

In addition to Donovan’s vocals and the instrumentation provided by Watkins, drummer Tom Brechtlein (Wayne Shorter, Robben Ford), pianist Sean Giddings (Christopher Cross) saxophonist Rob Lockart (Arturo Sandoval, Terence Trent D’Arby, Paul Anka) and percussionist Dr. Tom Burritt also contributed their talents to the recording.

Watch the visualizer video for The Hop above, sample Back To The Light below, and catch The AltoRays at their website.