Confusing the Devil
is the excellent debut CD from the Hanuman Sextet, six Downtown musicians on the front lines of reinventing music. The Sextet is composed of Andy Haas on shofar, raita (Moroccan oboe), sax and electronics; Don Fiorino on banjo, lotar (Moroccan lute) and lap steel guitar; Mia Theodoratus on electric harp; Matt Heyner on bass; David Gould on drums; and Dee Pop on percussion. The unique instrumentation combined with the musicians' backgrounds in classical, experimental, jazz, blues and rock immediately points to something special, but what really makes this group combust is its fearless spirit and open-minded ears.
The CD consists of four songs, all recorded live at Dee Pop's venerable Freestyle Series at CBGB's Lounge. Each song is a generous outpouring of improvised music, an auditory treat of layers and textures, melodic dissonance and emotional urgency. The music is grounded in the talents and imaginations of the improvisers, allowing them tremendous creative freedom; the songs turn sound inside out, and slip into places you never knew existed. The musicians play with total commitment, and each song is a fascinating journey that only improves on repeated listening.
One hint of where the Hanuman Sextet is coming from can be found in the song "Incestuous Amplification"; according to the liner notes, incestuous amplification is "a condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation." The quote's relevance to current events is clear, but the concept of incestuous amplification also applies to music: by conforming to set ideas about what jazz is, we simply reinforce existing beliefs, and make the tragic mistake of negating original voices. Fortunately groups like the Hanuman Sextet are keeping the flame alive, creating music that takes firm steps into the unexpected.
Personnel: The Hanuman Sextet is Andy Haas on shofar, raita (Moroccan oboe), sax, and electronics; Don Fiorino
on banjo, lotar (Moroccan lute), and lap steel guitar; Mia Theodoratus on electric harp; Matt Heyner on
bass; David Gould on drums; and Dee Pop on percussion.