Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup, 2015)

One of the finest groups on the modern jazz scene, Mostly Other People Do the Killing has had their first significant personnel change, with trumpeter Peter Evans leaving the group while pianist Ron Stabinsky joins full time. The remainder of the group stays the same: Jon Irabagon on saxophones, Moppa Elliott on bass and Kevin Shea on drums. The group’s albums have often explored different eras of jazz history from the hot jazz of the 1920’s to the free jazz of the 1960’s. For this album, Elliott wrote compositions that would allow the band to explore 1950’s hard-bop jazz through their postmodern lens. “Mauch Chunk Is Jim Thorpe (For Henry Threadgill)” opens the album with a sense of exuberant uptempo confidence. They come out of the gate hard and swinging with the very tight piano, bass and drums section providing the perfect platform for Jon Irabagon’s taut saxophone solo, where he wields shards of air with a great dark tone punctuated by the occasional honk and squeal. Kevin Shea develops an excellent rhythm on “West Bolivar (For Caetano Veloso)” for the whole group to improvise upon. He allows the music to be open ended and breathe, and the giddy sense of fun and wit that the band has always used as their secret weapon is on display here. “Obelisk (For Dave Holland)” keeps the pace fast and furious with the whole band pushing relentlessly forward while the rhythm sways between a choppy swing and a more intricate feel. The music barrels toward a setting of relentlessly slashing drums and saxophone that sends the band spiraling toward a thrilling conclusion. After taking a breather with the ballad “Niagra (For Will Connell)”, they move into an uptempo hard-bop sensibility on “Herminie (For Sonny Clark).” Ron Stapinksy sets a romping pace along with bass and drums and peals of saxophone, setting the stage for some riveting interplay amongst the musicians. No matter how complex their improvisations may become, they still remain very accessible and tremendously exciting. The longest track on the album is the dynamic “Townville (For Brieanne Beaujolais)” where there are sections for epic saxophone soloing along with excellent elastic sounding bass playing from Moppa Elliott. The fast and nearly free passages are balanced by wide open and more spacious areas where individual musicians can take the imitative to fill in at will. “Mehoopany (For Frank Fonseca)” rounds out the album with a joyful piano twinkle and ripe saxophone. The group comes together as a single unified group to finish the album on a very high note. This was a wonderful and consistently imaginative album. The group seems to be tighter than ever despite the personal change and the intelligence and wisdom that they bring to their music make it a joy to hear. Much Chunk -

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