Skull Session: Rise Above (2004)
The appropriately named Skull Session burns with the passion of a great jazz band. Leader/guitarist Jeff Plotz writes loose, gritty tunes that break wide open. The scent of Ornette lingers at times, but this quintet plays it a way all its own. His use of improvised melodic invention, rather than shock and noise, has Plotz superficially resembling Joe Morris on his first instrument. Ironically, Morris handles the bass chores, resisting timekeeping for time traveling. With drummer Luther Gray handling several times simultaneously, the rhythm section frequently outdistances the front line. More chair-swapping occurs as bassist Timo Shanko wails a strident tenor saxophone. Roswell Rudd alumnus and frequent Plotz collaborator Scott Getchell rounds out the quintet on trumpet.
"Roshamatod" shoots out the gate and never looks back. With Morris and Gray heating the pot, Getchell boils over first, blistering the horn. Gray's clear chords urge momentum, and Shanko obliges raw and reedy. Plotz in trio gives an understated reading followed by the group running out like a stolen car. "Ochre Moon" features a mellow theme with Morris and Gray teeming beneath. Plotz travels circuitously, while Shanko smashes head on with that big tone.
With Getchell sitting out, the guitar/sax unison on "Genius Syndrome" resembles the harmolodics of the Universal Congress Of. Getchell returns for "Downward Chop," a straight forward tune with post bop leanings that Shanko blows apart. Morris occasionally reconvenes the theme via the bass line, but for Plotz's surprising solo, he gives space. Getchell goes for low and introverted, a mood maintained by Gray during his restrained solo.
The ballad "You In Mind" lets Shanko express a softer side, and the saxophonist warms to it. Tastefully using multiphonics to conclude, he makes way for Plotz's thoughtful musing before soulfully leading him back to the theme. Back to the races for "Open," a blowfest for Shanko, and "Rind" brings Getchell back for a dark tango.
Skull Session successfully incorporates several jazz strains to achieve a singular sound, tempering five strong voices into a potent musical statement.
Track Listing: Roshamatod; Ochre Moon; Genius Syndrome; Downward Chop; You In Mind; Open; Rind.
Personnel: Jeff Plotz, guitar; Timo Shanko, tenor sax; Scott Getchell, trumpets; Luther Gray, drums and percussion; Joe Morris, acoustic bass.