Drummer Dave King is the lynchpin of many a group, notably The Bad Plus collective and his own Happy Apple. This new group merges his influences from the music of Nashville to the hard-hitting jazz of John Coltrane. King has the reputation of a bit of a brute behind the kit, something of a diabolical crossbreed between Elvin Jones and Keith Moon, but as this album demonstrates, he has a lot more at his disposal than raw power. He is joined on this album by Chris Speed and Brandon Wozniak on saxophones, Erik Fratzke on guitar and Adam Linz on bass. Opening with “April in Gary” the band sounds completely different than one would expect, with an ominous and foreboding piano and plucked instrument (possibly the strings of the piano?) Regardless, it makes a statement that this will not be your “normal” jazz album. The group gets down to business with “I Am Looking for Strength” building an interesting guitar figure with heavy drumming. After developing a rather languid section, the group shifts dynamically, developing in strength to an able-bodied collective improvisation as powerful saxophone bleats over guitar and rolling drums. “Night Tram” features the full band playing the melody, with some choppy saxophone and drums gathering pace nicely. The dark tone of the saxophone and the drums make for an appealing and exciting sound. The band establishes an upbeat and swinging groove on “Payphones” with electric guitar and gnawing saxophone adding muscularity to the music. King steps out here as well, with a dexterous and agile drum solo. A strong pounding drumbeat leads into “You Can’t Say Poem in Concrete” building to a robust collective improvisation. Waves of sound from a snarling guitar solo and thrashing drums make this one of the more exciting tracks on the album. Dynamics are the key to the final track, “The Road Leads Home,” beginning with light drums and long tones of moaning mid-tempo saxophone. Things shift dramatically midway through, with guitar, saxophone and drums building to lightning speed, dropping into overdrive for a great conclusion. Good Old Light - amazon.com
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Earth Tongues - Rune (Neither Nor, 2015) ****½
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