Like an elephant dressed in a tuxedo, its hulk swaying to the tempo of some infectious beat; so too is the audacity and undeniable presence of Just Like This by Keefe Jackson's Project Project. The liner notes refer to the twelve-player ensemble as a circus. And rightly so, for it's a bodacious, colorful sound spectacle, led by saxophonist Keefe Jackson.
Jackson is one of many young rising stars in the ever-thriving Chicago music scene, which is home to a host of luminaries including Kahil El'Zabar, Ken Vandermark, Rob Mazurek and Nicole Mitchell. His associations with quite a few groups and his previous recording, Ready Everyday (Delmark, 2007), are establishing him as a fearless innovator.
Now with a large ensemble, his music is even more vivid, captivating and outlandish. The spirit of Chicago's avant-garde (AACM), Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler, and others run through Jackon's six original pieces, with bright ideas flowing through their veins.
The eleven-minute "Dragon Fly sets out with quarrelling trombones, then moves from Duke Ellington grace to a heated pulsation of swing, with fabulous trumpet/bass clarinet solos and massive horn arranging. The quick changes between melody and on-spot improvisation are exhilarating, at times chaotic or concise. "The Grass is Greener takes center stage with animated hornsguttural slurs, moans, and helicopter-like noises as the musicians interact, reaching a deafening peak then peaceful climax.
Tension and release, drama or humor, are in full display as the sounds of brass and wood show an array of personalities. Though Jackson's the ring leader, these wild horns are kept in check by the superb rhythm section of bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly, keeping perfect time and providing their own solos.
Waves of sound and isolated moments of a single voice all have their place on pieces like "Titled and the controlled chaos of "Which Well. The show ends with the very hip "Wind-Up Toy, shifting from a funky motif to toe-tapping, finger-snapping swing and punctuated solos.
Just Like This is an awe-inspiring document of music for those who enjoy their sounds large and their music progressive. This elephant is a sight to behold, and thankfully comes without the smell.
Track Listing: Dragon Fly; Grass Is Greener; Titled; Just Like This; Which Well; Wind-Up Toy.
Personnel: Keefe Jackson: tenor sax, bass clarinet, composer; Josh Berman: cornet; Jaimie Branch: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeb Bishop: trombone; Nick Broste: trombone; Marc Unternahrer: tuba; James Falzone: clarinet; Guillermo Gregorio: alto sax, clarinet; Dave Rempis: alto and baritone sax; Jason Stein: bass clarinet; Anton Hatwich: bass; Frank Rosaly: drums.