Some of the greatest, and often warped, band names bubble out of New Orleans. Consider the Molly Ringwalds, Late As Usual, Hipatitis, and the Can’t Hardly Playboys. Then there’s Gypsy Schaeffer, a foursome that hails from Boston, but borrowed its name from N’Awlins—specifically, from the name of the Storyville bordello where legendary pianist Jelly Roll Morton cut his musical teeth. Gypsy Schaeffer’s indeed.
It’s a rather ironic choice, given that this adventuresome quartet has no pianist in its midst. In fact, Gypsy Schaeffer revels on the freedom that its instrumentation adds to its cohesive yet adventurous take on modern, original jazz. On this CD, the band consists of four players who moved to Boston for higher education—music or otherwise—and never left: alto saxophonist Andy Voelker, trombonist Joel Yennior, bassist Edward Perez and drummer Chris Punis. (Perez has since left the group to study Latin music in Peru and has been replaced by bassist Jef Charland). All twelve tracks on its freewheeling debut recording are originals written by Voelker (nine) or Yennior (three).
“What’s The Deal?” sets the table with a tightly arranged horn line that splits into a series of free-wheeling improvisations, often with alternate horn counterpoint—trombone filling behind alto, drums countering the trombone. The soloing is crisp, thoughtful and never boring. And the backing from the other musical partners is always on the mark. That group concept is the thread throughout the project.
The rousing “Joisey Boys’ Shuffle” takes its name and inspiration from the fact that three of the members—Voelker, Yennoir and Punis—hail from the Garden State. In particular, check out the horns’ unison riffing behind Perez’ arco work.
The most intriguing piece for this listener was “I Want to Go to Havana,” a descarga in 13/4. The bandmates take turns laying down a steady ostinato that cushions the soloist of the moment. It’s clever and well done. There is much to enjoy here. Original, accessible and always on the edge.
Visit Gypsy Schaeffer on the web.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Personnel: Andy Voelker, alto sax; Joel Yennior, trombone; Edward Perez, bass; Chris Punis, drums.