Lucid Culture


CD Review: Quartet Offensive – Carnivore

We need more jazz like this: counterintuitive, surprising, innovative and tuneful as hell. Although capable of a gem like the long lyrical ballad Jelly, the album’s next-to-last track, Quartet Offensive also like their noise. On this new cd, the Baltimore jazz group prove equally adept at an MC5-style amalgam of gritty riff-rock and free jazz, as well as intermingling plenty of effectively haphazard improvisation within the strikingly terse, melodic architecture of their compositions. Much of this compares favorably with the excellent, melodic Boston free jazz outfit Gypsy Schaeffer. John Dierker gets a surprising amount of range out of his bass clarinet, adding unexpected textures in tandem with Eric Trudel’s tenor sax. Matt Frazao‘s often heavily processsed guitar also adds a wealth of shades and frequencies over the often astonishingly minimalist, subtle groove of the rhythm section, Adam Hopkins on bass and Nathan Ellman-Bell on drums. Headphone music, most definitely.

The big riff-rockers are the opening and closing tracks here. The first works a raunchy funk-metal riff down into a guitar-and-horns freakout in the same vein as King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man, then winds its way back up. The last cut moves deftly from riff-rock to swing, sax and guitar effects bubbling like acid on cinderblock in midsummer until the insistent pulse of the horns brings the track back into focus. The single best track might be the langorous yet fascinating dirge Heavy-Light. An off-kilter conversation between Dierker and Trudel opens it, guitar entering mysteriously over the horns’ repetitive insistence, sax eventually rising overhead. Then a sunbaked guitar solo that morphs into a rippling firestorm as the effects pedals seem to gleefully fry themselves. Meanwhile, the rhythm section maintains the pace of a tortoise. But it’s a funky tortoise: he just moves at about a third of the speed that we do.

Or, the best song here might be the tongue-in-cheek narrative The Sheep Ate the Flowers, kicking off with a staccato guitar riff that works itself into a maelstrom of noise into guitar feedback that fades down until it’s mostly inaudible, then up to a hypnotic, circular, guitar-driven fusionesque vamp. Or it could be the self-explanatory O.D., kicking off with yet more staccato guitar echoed restlessly by the horns, followed by what sounds like a playful rip of the chorus from Steely Dan’s Josie – in 13. Sax and then guitar solos grow increasingly unhinged, to the point where at the end of Frazao’s crazed trip to the emergency room, the horns have to take over and comp and keep the restraints tightly knotted. There’s also a evocatively pensive ballad titled Gooodbye, Cavendish and the straight-up groove Yo Banana Boy with its thoughtful Wes Montgomery-inflected guitar and shapeshifting harmonies between the horns. The liner notes indicate that this album was recorded with help from the Peabody Office of Career Development and the Maryland State Arts Council: money well spent. One can only wonder how many other excellent groups like this are kicking around towns like “Ballmer.” Quartet Offensive’s next gig is a free show on September 12 at 9 PM at Windup Space, 12 W North Ave. in Baltimore with Brooklyn group Afuche.

September 3, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment