Reptet: The Future of Jazz?
Along with New York’s Moon Hooch, Chicago’s Herculaneum and Los Angeles ensemble Slumgum, Seattle band Reptet are at the forefront of fearless, aggressive, punk-inspired jazz. Their album At the Cabin came out last year; these self-described “horn-heavy tone bandits, injecting jazz with adrenaline and bringing it to the streets” blend influences from all over the map with a good-natured sense of humor. The whole album as well as their equally interesting previous releases are streaming at their Bandcamp. Although their instrumentation is fairly traditional, they’re more about creating a new, high-energy sound than drawing on past influences or styles. Funky hooks alternate with woozy collective improvisation, hard-hitting rhythms shift to quiet ambience, and the melodies reach far afield from the basic blues to Ethiopia, the Balkans and the baroque.
The brightly shuffling, rhythmically tricky Mayfield Safety kicks off the album. It’s a diptych with neatly arranged crescendos changing hands, from Izaak Mills’ tenor sax, to Chris Credit’s baritone sax, to Samantha Boshnack’s trumpet delivering the big payoff. The second part is considerably quieter, the trumpet’s microtonal quavers shifting to the unexpected warmth of Credit’s alto sax. Snow Leopard sends big, exuberant horn charts riding the waves from clave, to funk, to an Ethiopian triplet groove and some potent contrasts between the trumpet and Nelson Bell’s trombone working tightly with guest Mark Oi’s guitar. From there they segue into the casual, carefree intro to Milky Shakes, which turns droll and comedic in a catchy Moisturizer way, with a surprise ending.
Something Like What turns slinky soul-funk into Ethiopiques, packed with light/dark contrasts, nimble handoffs between voices and some especially choice, incisive clarinet work from Credit on klezmer-tinged clarinet. Mock Arena is an exuberantly successful clinic in full-band counterpoint and clever two-versus-two horn charts, while the bubbly Songitty Song plays variations on a latin mode. Silly outerspace efx contrast with soul/gospel joy in the practically ten-minute Agendacide, with solo euphonium kicking off a spacy jam that builds to a triumphant George Clinton-esque finish. The band’s sense of humor takes over completely on the last two tracks, the crazed, vividly breathless, jazzcore Trash Can Race, where laughter eventually overwhelms any sense of coherence, and the bouncy, sly faux-Balkan tune Pills, which they keep meticulously tight until those pills start to really kick in and at that point the same thing happens but much, much more slowly. What a great time to be alive and watch bands like Reptet creating the future of jazz in such a cutting-edge yet accessible way.
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