Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Apple – Back on Top (Sunnyside, 2007)

The Minneapolis based jazz trio Happy Apple is made up of bassist Erik Fratzke, saxophonist Michael Lewis, and drummer David King. Their music follows in the path of their previous releases, looking at jazz and pop music in an iconoclastic way. The first three tracks start the album off nicely with angular up-tempo melodies and improvisations fueled by propulsive bass lines. Much like their sister band The Bad Plus, Happy Apple draws on pop and rock for some inspiration, but they are too multi-dimensional to fall into a pure "fusion" camp. The band always finds interesting and cheeky titles for their composition, like the pulsing opening tune "The New Bison". Dynamics are a part of the band's motif as well, going from loud to soft like the Ahmad Jamal Trio (or Nirvana for that matter) the band is able to meld their source material into complex improvisations. The album also has provocative performances of Latin grooves on “Lefse Los Cubanos” and a nice ballad on "Hence the Turtleneck" (another great title). This is a strong album overall, Happy Apple may not have gained the notice or inspired the controversy of The Bad Plus, but they are an equal, also taking diverse influences and weaving them into an original music.

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