Friday, December 21, 2018

Adam Hopkins - Crickets (Out of Your Head Records, 2018)

Active as a leader, sideman and now a label owner, bassist and composer Adam Hopkins is set to make a splash in the world of progressive jazz. To that end he is releasing his debut album as a leader with a heavy hitting crew including Anna Webber on tenor saxophone, Ed Rosenberg on tenor and bass saxophone, Josh Sinton on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Jonathan Goldberger on guitar and Devin Gray on drums. "They Can Swim Backwards But Choose Not To" opens with short swirly sax, and thumping bass and drums, invoking intense and vivid colors rotating around a common center by centripetal force by which threaten to fly apart at any time, especially during the drum onslaught. Wall of noise ushers in "Crickets Crime Of the Years" bowed instrument, bass maybe, gradually calms, and band cranks in clamping down ominous volume, with malice aforethought, heavy weighty music, horns break out and attempt a getaway, hemmed in by spokes of guitar, taut bass and drums. Music builds into a pure maelstrom of scalding guitar, ravishing horns and pummelling drums, thrilling stuff. "Mudball" employs a strong beat with bleating horns, like a traffic jam, then develops a tightly wound theme leading the music outward from that vantage point. Brawny horns refuse to back down under the weight of a drum fusillade, the sound of the improvisation is clamorous and full of life and joyous noise. They weave back into a more open section, but not for long as the band rises up like a leviathan, at full bellow, creating quite a splash indeed. A slowly developing track, "Haven of Bliss" unfolds slowly and languorously with swirls of saxophone over a light beat, the music is intricately woven among the instruments, with none achieving prominence. Definitely a slow burn gradually evolving over time, with the hues and tones becoming more stretched and distressed as time goes by as they tack further into the wind, picking up speed with blustery saxophone, insistent drumming and strong guitar and bass. "I Think the Duck Was Fine" fairly bursts out with the horns raring to go, and the rhythm section developing a cool silky groove, hoping that the horns don't blow their cover with their insistent blaring. One brave saxophonist steps out and lays down the law with a raw angular solo rearing back and howling when his territory is encroached upon. The group dives back into the crunchy theme and powers for the finish of an excellent and memorable performance. Finishing the album, "Scissorhands" has scalding electric guitar, manic and wreathed in feedback met by sympathetic horns and drumming leading to an all out free jazz performance, short and sweet to end the album. Everyone is on board and the music moves with a relentless certainty despite the inherent randomness of freely improvised music. They carreen forward pushing aside anything in their path, on a mission, faster and faster until they wink out in a burst of sheer energy. Crickets -

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