Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Paint (Hot Cup, 2017)

It is hard to imagine the venerable modern jazz band Mostly Other People Do the Killing as a hornless piano trio, but they pull it off in style, using their trademark wit to carry them through a stressful period of lineup changes. Pianist Ron Stabinsky joined the group in 2014 for the Red Hot album, and he has a Jaki Byard like ability to call upon the whole of jazz history in his playing, or to quote a Beaver Harris album title, the ability to play "From Ragtime To No Time." Group co-founders bassist and composer Moppa Elliott and drummer Kevin Shea round out this version of the band and they are very tight making for music that is uniformly excellent, beginning with  "Yellow House" which has a gracefully strutting rhythm, building to a kaleidoscopic improvisation that moves through several interesting sections that are linked together by a memorable melody. They weave in percussive accents of Latin jazz within a bright and bouncy hard bop structure, with cascading ripples of piano pouring forth from Stabinsky and thick bass and drums providing a firm foundation for the band. There is a fast opening for "Black Horse" which sees the trio sprinting forward with a light and nimble theme and improvisation. The interplay between the members of the trio is excellent and allows them to shift the tempo and intensity of the music on a dime. The trio keeps the fast paced groove and builds different statements off of that foundation, like an excellent bass solo which is framed by bursts of piano and percussion. "Plum Run" has a gently swinging opening, developing the music slowly and dramatically, with Elliott stretching out with another excellent bass solo and the piano and drums adding filigrees to his firm handed improvisation. Stabinsky's piano solo builds to a very exciting climax before concluding with a return to the mellow and relaxed theme. "Green Briar" has an impressive fast pace which serves as a opening for Stabinsky to improvise some very stylish piano over ever shifting bass and drums. Finally, "Whitehall" has a subtle theme that allows the band to mold it into a very interesting improvised section, using dynamic loudness and abrupt pauses with dramatic swells of volume that make for an exciting and unpredictable performance. This was an excellent album that melds jazz tradition with a modernist edge. I was a little skeptical about the changes to the band's lineup, but those concerns turned out to be groundless, and everything works in a thoughtful and interesting manner. Paint - CDBaby.

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