By Josh Hertzog   Published Mar 14, 2005 at 5:22 AM

{image1} Instrumental bands don't just easily transform and add singers to become anew while keeping the original feel.

Try telling that to the band Hudson.

The jazzified Milwaukee rock group featuring Paul Jonas on the bass and vocals, Chris Tishler on guitar and vocals, Matt Meixner on keyboards, Jeff Benske on guitar and vocals and Matt Liban on the drums -- their alter egos also have a band, 5 Card Studs -- started out playing only funky instrumentals until adding some rockin' lyrical flavor.

Now, in celebration of its second release, "Hudsongs," Hudson is throwing a CD release party March 18 at Shank Hall.

"I'm really happy about how the songs turned out," says Jonas, who wrote most of the songs on "Hudsongs."

"We called up Jeff, an exceptional sound guy, and Chris, who can lay down the rock. The result was incredible."

"Hudsongs" is an 11-song party with a guest list including '60s rock influences along with some funky guitar riffs that even George Clinton would appreciate. Raspy vocals add the extra kick partygoers look for when spiking the punch. It's a sophisticated step in the right direction from the band's impressive instrumental debut album, "On."

"It's jazz-inflicted funk that is diverse and jagged, yet flows," Tishler says.

"I'd consider it a versatile spectral palette," Meixner says, but, after commenting, seems to ponder what that actually means.

No matter how it's put, "Hudsongs" is a worthy listen. The mix of styles displays the jazziness of John Scofield and a slow rock Beatles-esque sound that allows thoughtful songwriting to shine, but the mix was a long time coming.

Hudson members became familiar with one another by playing in different bands and running into each other time and again. Benske and Jonas have been playing together since high school; an impressive 22 years. Often having gigs at similar venues, the guys decided it would be a great opportunity to collaborate styles and abilities.

Prior to Hudson some of these guys played together in Loyal Order of Water Buffalo, Stress Kid, Jasmine Road Affair, Mother's Room, as well as many other bands.

"We were a bunch of parallel lines that just came together," Jonas says.

Even though the band has been playing together for many years, the initial motivation and inspiration remains. "We have this inspiration about the moment," Meixner says. "We live for the moment."

"It's a great creative outlet that allows us to get away from the standards or other bands' music," Jonas says. "We produce something absolutely unique and genuine."

The transition to song writing for any band that hasn't before can be a grueling and often band-breaking experience. But Hudson remains strong, putting it in a league of its own.

"It's a slower evolution with a guy writing lyrics," Jonas says. "We just spent a period writing, then introduced it as it became whole, then salt and peppered it until we had what we wanted."

"We just want people to enjoy it on their headphones or with people, hanging out," Meixner says. "There's a flow with the record, start to finish, a satisfying mix that hopefully makes you wanna share it with your friends and want more."

"We're not this year's flavor," emphasizes Jonas. " We have a sound that people can constantly come back to and appreciate like it was their first time again."

Introduce yourself to the jazz-rock fusion band Hudson or experience the first time all over again at the "Hudsongs" CD release party at 10 p.m. on Friday, March 18 at Shank Hall. Supporting acts include The Nice Outfit and Chariot's Race.

It's $6 to get in, and the album can be purchased for $5 at the door. "Hudsongs" is available at Exclusive Company, Atomic Records, Benske's Top Shelf Guitar Shop, Rockhaus Guitars and Rush-mor.

Hudson's Web site is