Thematically, the new CD by trumpeter/composer Jeff Kaiser would send Howlin' Wolf running for a rabbit’s foot. 13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic features a large band comprised of some of LA’s most creative improvisers including Lynn Johnston, Mike Vlatkovich, Vinny Golia, Jason Mears, Richie West, Dan Clucas, and Kris Tiner. The hyper literate Kaiser named his themes after titles from the novel Tristam Shanty. Clocking in at exactly 1:13:13, the suite proves Kaiser to be a composer of richly varied multi-layered large scale works.
Opening with “My Uncle Toby’s Apologetical Oration,” the band plays an orderly high school awards dinner intro that breaks into improvised reeds and drums. Vinny Golia’s remarkable sopranino solo emerges with the bass, and soon the brass marches in. Stinson and Peet create deep odd electronic rumblings which travel along as Vlatkovich duets with the Golia. Emily Hay’s dynamic flute signals “Gravity was an errant scoundrel.” She plays with the electronics and manages to stay in front of the returning brass. Tiner, Clucas, and Kaiser play chase games on trumpets, then Kaiser and Jason Mears on alto lead an assault with guitar, bass and drums.
Erik Sbar on euphonium joins the burbling electronics that introduce “This Sweet Fountain of Science,” a ballad. After some drifting flute and trombones, Golia and Johnston take over on strident low saxophones. That yields to a tribal drum sound joined by Kaiser playing a long vivid rich toned solo. Barber’s sax flags the beginning of “The Curate’s Folly Betwixt Them.” Kaiser frames Barber’s extended playing on the tenor sax with dramatic horn charts alongside organist Wayne Peet. Peet and Stinson jam their way into “Devout, Venerable, Hoary-headed Men, Meekly Holding Up a Box.” Peet considers the theme with Richie West and Stinson.
“The Stranger’s Nose Was No More Heard of” hosts a return of the awards band theme that opened the piece played in a soundscape of chirping winds. Dutz and West set a primal mood for “Uncle Toby Understood the Nature of a Parabola.” Tiner, Vlatkovich, and Kaiser blow brief cries at each other, until Golia’s clarinet runs fast and free into “The Accusing Spirit Which Flew Up to Heaven’s Chancery.” The reeds join together to spur him on, then a herd of horns announces a long song by Tiner.
“A Thousand of My Father’s Most Subtle Syllogisms” begins in the basses, who hand off to Hay. Her lilting solo leads into Johnston on bass clarinet and Kaiser on flugelhorn, both of which unleash a mighty roar. Golia returns to roam reflectively on contra alto clarinet for “His Life Was Put in Jeopardy by Words.” All the reeds play multiphonically, leading into Tiner and Clucas’ spirited duet on “The Heat and Impatience of his Thirst.” Vlatkovich takes over with a slippery solo, followed by a blistering turn on tenor by Barber.
Jeff Kaiser's large group recordings continue to impress, demonstrating the composer's unique ideas and good taste in employing a cross section of LA's bustling creative musician pool.
Track Listing: My Uncle Toby
Personnel: Eric Barber, soprano and tenor saxophone; Vinny Golia, saxophones, clarinet, flutes; Emily Hay,
flute; Lynn Johnston, saxophones and clarinets; Jason Mears, alto saxophone; Dan Clucas/Kris
Tiner trumpets; Michael Vlatkovich, trombone; Eric Sbar, euphonium and valve trombone; Mark
Weaver, tuba; Ernest Diaz-Infante acoustic guitar; Tom McNalley, electric guitar; G.E. Stinson,
electric guitar and electronics; Jim Connolly/Hal Onserud, contrabass; Wayne Peet, organ, theremin,
electronics; Brad Dutz, percussion; Richie West, drum set and percussion; Jeff Kaiser, conductor