Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sex Mob Meets Medeski - Live in Willisau (Thirsty Ear, 2009)

The provocative name Sex Mob is applied to the band consisting of Steven Bernstein on trumpet and slide trumpet, Briggan Grauss on saxophone, Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums, joined on this recording by keyboardist John Medeski. With influences ranging from the bordello music of New Orleans to the soundtracks of James Bond films, their gigs and recordings are always interesting and unpredictable. This live recording was split into three suites which meld themes from pop, jazz and blues together as vehicles for improvisation. Their sense of fun and impishness never overwhelms the source material they draw from, particularly on "Black and Tan Fantasy" the beautiful Duke Ellington composition that was the highlight of the album for me. The group plays the melody with delicacy and respect, especially Bernstein, whose evocative slide trumpet was made for this, but then use it as a jumping off point for a wild and wholly improvisation that has the crowd excited. Another cover that is crowd pleasing is "Sign 'O the Times" by the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. The performance starts off slowly, but then moves into some grinding R&B that plays to the bands nature well. The brief snippet of the New Orleans standard "Little Liza Jane" is a fun burst of second line nostalgia as well. Some of the music from their Sex Mob Does Bond album is included as the band mines the soundtracks of the classic spy films for the themes "Odd Job" and "You Only Live Twice." Some original compositions are also included like the four short improvisations entitled "Mob Rule" which are used to like the different suites together and cue segues to different compositions. This is a solid freewheeling album of improvised music. Sex Mob has a "big tent" philosophy, drawing from many different types in their search for inspiring music.
Live in Willisau -

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