Dave King Trucking Company: Good Old Light (2011)
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Branching out from his duties in The Bad Plus and Happy Apple, drummer Dave King formed the Dave King Trucking Company to explore a highly personalized take on Americana that he describes as "if the great Nashville bands of the '60s and '70s could improvise and were John Coltrane fanatics." Building on this idea, King and company bolster tuneful themes with unfettered expressionism, drawing inspiration from the 1970s era work of Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett as well as contemporaneous krautrock pioneers like Can and Neu for their debut recording Good Old Light, which strikes a delicate balance between hypnotic lyricism and probing experimentation.
As interpreted by fellow Happy Apple member Erik Fratzke (electric guitar), Adam Linz (upright bass) and tenor saxophonists Chris Speed and Brandon Wozniak, King's melodious tunes sidestep conventional theme and variation-based structures, following their own episodic narratives. Despite his reputation as a percussive powerhouse, King proves to be a magnanimous leader, providing ample solo space for his sidemen while delivering a bevy of enthralling trap set ruminations. Trumping expectations, he introduces the thematically concise album in unconventional fashion, opening the date with "April in Gary," an unaccompanied piano meditation that seamlessly integrates scintillating Eastern tonalities with bluesy Western motifs.
The remainder of the date exudes a rich Heartland sensibility with sing-song melodies and propulsive grooves that fluctuate in and out of conventional harmony and standard time signatures, underscoring edgy improvisational gambits. The anthemic "You Can't Say 'Poem in Concrete'" and rocking "Hawk Over Traffic" are noteworthy examples of the band's concordance. Each features King's motoric backbeats and Linz's palpitating bass lines shadowed by Fratzke's shimmering fretwork, while Speed and Wozniak's diaphanous tenors ascend to the heavens, their labyrinthine cadences dovetailing into plangent synchronicity.
Evoking the burnished palette of American folk music traditions, Fratzke's overdriven sustain and twangy, reverb-laden tone lends an air of Midwestern authenticity to the proceedings, including the gospel-influenced "I Am Looking for Strength" and countrified "Payphones." The guitarist's sole contribution, the locomotive "Night Tram," draws from bop-ish antecedents, evoking urban panoramas with hairpin melodic turns that are further amplified by the leader's thrilling extended drum salvos. On a more austere note, the reverential "Church Clothes with Wallet Chain" trades impetuousness for humility before the post-rock influenced progression of "The Road Leads Home" slowly builds to an epic finale, closing the date with a telling blend of lyricism and power.
Track Listing: April in Gary; You Can't Say "Poem in Concrete"; I Am Looking for Strength; Night Tram; Payphones; Hawk Over Traffic; Church Clothes w/ Wallet Chain; The Road Leads Home.
Personnel: Dave King: drums, piano; Chris Speed: tenor saxophone; Brandon Wozniak: tenor saxophone; Erik Fratzke: electric guitar; Adam Linz: upright bass.
Record Label: Sunnyside Records
Style: Modern Jazz