Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup, 2017)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing have long been one of the most exciting bands on the progressive jazz scene. This expanded version of the group features Moppa Elliott on bass, Jon Irabagon on saxophones, Brandon Seabrook on banjo and electronics, Kevin Shea on drums, Ron Stabinsky on piano, Dave Taylor on bass trombone and Steven Bernstein on trumpets. This larger version of the group adds a few new faces and this allows the band to explore some interesting textures. The recording draws on books and music, with new compositions that explore early jazz with some dedicated to writers. "Hi-Nella" sways in on and old-timey groove with feathering banjo and punchy brass. Their commitment to the sound of the past is pure, but the improvisations are as fresh as today's news, particularly in Bernstein's solo which is wide open and unaccompanied. There is a languid and slow tempo on "Honey Hole" with slinky brass and a gentle beat. An easy swinging saxophone solo breaks out framed and then joined by the other instruments, building to a stronger and decidedly modern improvisation section. Strong piano band bass provide the backbone for "Bloomsburg" upon which the brass and rhythm build. The brass instruments snake through the tune as Shea's drums break up the rhythm and open the music for a nice collective improvisation. "Kilgore" has ominous bass and fearsome growls before the band comes together for a mid-tempo swing with filigrees of banjo, before going rogue with extended sounds for brass and reeds. This is the most outside track on the album, throwing the remaining performances into sharp contrast with a bracing free improvisation for very high pitched saxophone and then a section of madcap barrellhouse piano. The tempo mellows on "Mason and Dixon" with quiet and patient piano solo introduction followed by the rest of the band crashing the party with some torrential drumming leading to a banjo feature and a free for all that takes the music in an exciting new direction. "Meridian" keeps an even keel with a thoughtful opening and variations on the theme they establish. There is another fine solo section for the brass section buoyed by the band's impeccable support. A jaunty straw-boater tipping melody opens "Glen Riddle" with lightly stepping horns accompanied by vibrant piano and banjo, before the music takes a darker turn with a more open improvisation anchored by Elliott's bass. Everything comes together again as the group seamlessly rejoins for a rousing conclusion. Effects give "Five (Corners, Points, Forks)" the sound like it was being played on a at 78 RPM on an old Victrola, but the music is decidedly modern with choppy banjo met with growls and shrieks of saxophone and trumpet framed by twinkling piano, the remaining instruments fold in and the effects are dropped for a fascinating interpretation of the music's possibilities. This is another fine album from this relentlessly creative band. Elliott's compositions take into account the whole continuum of jazz from pre-bop to free improvisations and the band interprets them with grace and poise. Loafer's Hollow - amazon.com

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