Charlie Kohlhase's Explorer's Club: Adventures (2009)
Charlie Kohlhase is an entertaining adventurer. In his role as a composer, he draws on several influences. His eye is on the final dimension and in pursuing that, he uses a wide range of styles. Taken individually the styles seem to be odd bedfellows, but when the course of their journey has been charted, they have comingled seamlessly. His sense of humor gives room to his comic book heroes who find root in his compositions and rise with a devilish sense of fun. The more serious side is also in strong evidence as he comingles blues, swing, and free blowing, all in the constant quest to mine the different.
Kohlhase formed the Explorer's Club in 2005 as a quintet with Matt Langley (tenor and soprano saxophones), Eric Hofbauer (guitar), Jef Charland (bass), and Miki Mitsuki (drums). They added Jeff Galindo (trombone) when he was available, as he was for this recording. Kohlhase also added a second drummer, Chris Punis.
An understated fanfare greets the superheroes-inspired "Jasper Jaguar/Deceptor" before that dissipates into floating strands. The path is undefined, the horns and the guitar voice disparate cries while the drums call attention with emphatic rolls. But can heroes ignore a call however it may be cast? They don't and the band rides in, a convoy that is now in close knit. The saxophones and the trombone cry and honk and charge right on. They tumble and cavort and flip right around into a full blown caper.
The gentle strains of Hofabuer's guitar voice the melody of "Kohlhase and Forever," which is Charland's take on "Always and Forever." The saxophones bring in the pith, the pulse now deeper with the propensity towards an impressionistic ballad not diminished. The lines are neatly drawn as a combined force until Kohlhase reaches out into the squall of the upper register before coming down to a more earthly plateau. The countenance of the composition is constantly transfigured with Galindo carrying that through at first with a straight linearity before scissoring it.
The Explorer's Club is well named. It has an inbred vitality, the ability to find the strand in the maze that will lead it into a new entity that it amplifies with voicing that roves from the subtle to the brazen, its sense of time and pace woven to the call of the moment. All of that leads to a consistently stimulating music.
Track Listing: Jasper Jaguar/ Deceptor; Kohlhase and Forever; Loquator & Taciturnator; The Alarm Clock is My Only Kryptonite; Stealing Beauty/Potuder Time; Thryllkyll on the Schyllkyll/Psychopath on the Cyclepath; Decide For yourself; Superhero Beatdown; Utensor; The Star of the Show.
Personnel: Charlie Kohlhase: alto, tenor and baritone saxophones; Matt Langley: tenor and soprano saxophones; Jeff Galindo: trombone; Eric Hofbauer: guitar; Jef Charland: bass; Eric Hofbauer: guitar; Jef Charland: bass; Chris Punis: drums.