Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Forty Fort

Viciously satirical “bebop terrorists” Mostly Other People Do the Killing are back with another album which this time extends their savagery further beyond jazz into rock, pop and even new music. The idiom is still jazz, a particularly purist idiom at that, but the esthetic is pure punk rock. MOPDTK take no prisoners, they acknowledge nothing as sacred and in so doing reaffirm their status as the world’s funniest jazz group. Humor being a function of intellect, they know their source material so well that their sometimes playful, sometimes cruel extrapolations are inevitably spot-on. They have a rep for improvisational wipeouts, but probably much more of this stuff is composed than they would ever let on. From the first few seconds of the album, they are up to no good: bandleader/bassist Moppa Elliott and drummer Kevin Shea are the main culprits, although sax player Jon Irabagon – whose recent work is gorgeously lyrical and won him top honors at the Thelonious Monk International competition – and powerhouse trumpeter Peter Evans are very close behind. The song titles on their last album were all towns in Pennsylvania; here, they parody a vintage 60s album shot on the cd cover, as if to say, what could those stoners possibly have been thinking back then? The compositions here are, at least at heart, more accessible and traditionalist than on the Pennsylvania album, which ironically gives the band even more of a launching pad for japes and swipes. And Irabagon’s obscene gesture on the inside of the cd cover outdoes Gene Simmons.

There’s a basic formula at work here, and it’s teamwork – the horns hold it together, at least to the extent that they do, while the rhythm section goes nuts, or the rhythm section goes completely rock, four-on-the-floor while the horns are off in the boposphere. Even so, the changes remain so split-second or out-of-leftfield that it’s impossible to predict what trouble is lurking around the corner from that too-perfect second-line beat or slinky blues bassline. The album’s opening cut is a go-go groove that has Shea acting out from the second bar, Irabagon and Evans squealing off and on behind him as Elliott deadpans it, completely locked in. And then suddenly it’s a straight-up song, no joking – for less than a minute, actually, before Irabagon starts making fun of it again. At the end, Shea lays down a dijeridoo loop that eventually falls apart when nobody can keep a straight face anymore.

The second cut amusingly lifts a bunch of timeworn Weather Report riffs while the rhythm section slowly gets out of hand – Elliott’s phony Jaco solo is to die for. A squalling yet meticulously orchestrated conversation between an agitated Irabagon and Evans trying to calm him down takes it out. Track three, Blue Ball starts out less a mockery than just a good song, unease of the horns obscuring the pretty, bluesy tune underneath. Elliott holds it together on the upper registers before the insistence of the horns takes it hopelessly outside, down to a fluttery chaotic mess out of which Irabagon tries to pull it but then falls back in. What was that title again?

The next cut, Nanticoke Coke would be a pretty ballad if Shea would let it go there, but he won’t let them get far enough into it. On Little Hope, Elliott introduces what would be a minor soul groove in jazz, or a cliched 80s hook if given the right synth tones. Irabagon eventually goes into a squall of overtones as the band keeps the groove tight while the tune disintegrates every which way. The Louis Armstrong-inflected title track waits til the very end to introduce its best joke; Round Bottom, Square Top would be a joyous New Orleans march if Shea would sit still. And then the rhythm section leaves the horns out to dry. The album winds up with a Paul Whiteman-esque swing tune kicking off with some rustic muted work from Evans that gets time-warped to Ornette’s era, and a concert favorite, a cover of Cute by Neal Hefti. Needless to say, it’s anything but, and it gives Shea a chance to remind better than just about any other drummer ever has that drummers should almost always never be allowed to take solos. This band may sarcastically assert that mostly other people do the killing, but in their own twisted way nobody kills more than MOPDTK. And the cd liner notes – by legendary centuagenarian jazz critic “Leonardo Featherweight,” on the use of color in jazz – are worth the price of the cd alone.

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January 23, 2010 - Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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