I’m tempted to ask the band Tomato Box the origin of their name. I won’t, because I’m keen to guess.
About ten years ago I read that scientists were developing a square tomato that would be easier to ship. I’ve not seen the results of their work, but I do know the difference between homegrown and store bought tomatoes.
Like their homegrown namesake, the band Tomato Box cannot be fitted in a convenient carrying case. Their sound doesn’t fit your typical square jazz square pigeonholes, nor do they play brain dead (vegetable) free music. Drummer Michael Brenneis, who wrote seven of the songs here and all the songs on their debut record Talisman, favors organic creations from his rather fertile musicians.
The disc opens with “Rockstar” a staggering procession on what must have been a very tragic end to "a star that burned too brightly." The propelling drumming of Brenneis sets up Geoff Brady’s repeated marimba lines and the push-push of Todd Munnik’s clarinet.
While Brenneis’ drumming and nifty percussion work shines through, this band asserts itself as a whole unit throughout. The 10-minute “Wreckage” changes tempo and composed vs. free thought constantly. Two of the tracks they cover, “La Diva de L’Empire” and “Petite Ouverture a danser” by Erik Satie, act as intermission or as soundtrack to silent film and give context to the instrumentation utilized and its purpose.
Both “Blaze On, Idiot Sun, Blaze On” and “Rattlesnake” shift into some well-placed electronics. “Blaze On” pairs a theremin with an aggressive saxophone flurry by Munnik. It’s science fiction meets Peter Brotzmann. “Rattlesnake” chops and snips electric interference around a slow boat of trouble.
While the 14-minute “Trend & Detail” wanders a bit, Tomato Box comes back with a boppish “Your Mom Called” that shifts time and temperature into a summation of jazz from bebop to post-Downtown intellectualism.
Yuck, but there I said it, these Tomato guys are intellectuals. But their music is not engineered to fit nicely in your local record shop filing system.
Personnel: Michael Brenneis - Drums, Percussion, Sampler; Todd Munnik - Alto Saxophone, Clarinet; Geoff
Brady - Marimba, Percussion, Theremin, Electric glockenspiel; Nate Bakkum - Bass.