Killer Shrimp: Sincerely Whatever (2006)
Anyone who thinks hard bop is a spent creative force, fit only for the nostalgia and retro bins, could do worse than spin Sincerely Whatever. With just a pinch of electronica and a heap of hard blowing attitude, London's Killer Shrimp delivers the message like it's box-fresh. The quartet's debut album is inventive, physical, full of life, on the edgeand unmistakably of today.
Killer Shrimp is led by tenor saxophonist Ed Jones (who doubles a little bass clarinet and soprano too) and trumpeter Damon Brown. Jones is probably best known as a charter member of US3, and his A-list sideman credits go back to the early 1990s, when he was talent spotted by the late British bandleader and free music auteur John Stevens. He's also worked with Horace Silver, at the hard bop side of the spectrum, and Evan Parker, on the wild frontier. Brown's credits are just as diverse, taking in David Liebman and the recently deceased rocksteady-to-reggae singer/composer Desmond Dekker.
Between them, Jones and Brown wrote all the tunes on Sincerely Whatever bar two, Tadd Dameron's "On A Misty Night" and Blue Mitchell's "Blue Soul." Their writing stays fairly close to the hard bop template, but not exclusively so. "Prayer (For The New Millennium)"an ominous, descending motif, repeated with embellishments for around three minutes, suggesting that's all, folksbreaks the mold. The opening section of "Premonition" on the other hand, with a bass ostinato closely related to Willie Dixon's "Spoonful," is so much sanctified funk that it's practically rhythm & blues.
But it's in their soloing that Jones and Brown really break free of convention, creating something that is both in the hard bop tradition and beyond it. Brown can play with all the growling venom of Lee Morgan when he chooses to (which is frequently), and Jones comes on like a cross between Hank Mobley and middle period Coltrane, though with a fruiter tone, but both are their own men and both reflect the changes that have occurred in the music post-1965. A similar post-modernism marks the powerful contributions of Ben Hazleton (bass) and Troy Miller (drums).
One of the finest tracks is "Marielyst," in which electronic distortion is applied to both the trumpet solo (briefly) and the tenor solo (less briefly)meanwhile, overdubbed horns provide a quirky but groovalicious orchestration behind the soloists. The confluence of the 1960s and the 2000s is rarely so tellingly expressed, and the track pretty much sums up the considerable appeal of the entire album.
Track Listing: Last Of The Mohitos; Marielyst; My Deposit; Prayer (For The New Millennium); Angel Vamp; Monkeys Dream; Walking On; Harold's Souk; On A Misty Night; Jeckyll And Hyde; Premonition; Blue Soul.
Personnel: Ed Jones: soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, percussion; Damon Brown: trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals (7); Ben Hazleton: double bass; Troy Miller: drums; Larry Bartley: double bass (12).