Saint Dirt Elementary School: Ice Cream Man Dreams (2009)
Somewhere, Tom Waits is smiling. His vision of the amalgamation of the cabaret, circus and hipster is fully realized in the small big band known as Saint Dirt Elementary School on Ice Cream Man Dreams. The title track rolls in as a squeaky child's song of twisted sentiments and wonky melody. Its circus mayhem is subterfuge for some top-shelf music making.
The nine-piece ensemble realizes composer/guitarist Myk Freedman's writing with ease. Like a Raymond Scott title, the seemingly simple constructs are actually quite complex in performance. The future cartoon music here is definitely for an adult crowd though.
The 14 tracks are a sort of film score to a romantic comedy, one with plenty of pratfalls and love-lost and love-lost again moments. With hints of Nino Rota and the innocence of Bill Frisell, Freedman's compositions are realized by Jake Oelrichs' glockenspiel, Tania Gill's melodica, and Julia Hambleton's clarinet, alongside the off-kilter saxophones of Kai Koschmider and Evans Bradshaw.
Freedman's lap steel guitar contributes to the eerie sounds of the "Unnameable Dance," a sort of Eastern European start/stop dervish with squeaky joints. But don't ask why. The demons lurk with more tweet than squeak on "My Future's In The Air," a perfect soundtrack for the bumbling Inspector Clouseau to stumble around to. Now Henry Mancini is smiling somewhere too.
The record is packed full of pure joy.
Track Listing: Ice Cream Man Dreams; Clicking With the Clique; My Future's in the Air; He Looks Just Like Her (and she thinks he's beautiful); Riverbank Manager; Bear Wrestler; Unnameable Dance; Sparrow; My Children's Song; I Am Trapped On A Ship That Has Already Sunk; To Be Whistled in the Rain Forest; Poppy; Murder Ballad; She's Not My Girlfriend (my girlfriend's normal).
Personnel: Wes Cheang: acoustic guitar; Ryan Driver: analog synthesizer; Myk Freedman: lap steel guitar; Tania Gill: piano, melodica; Julia Hambleton: clarinet; Kai Koschmider: alto saxophone; Jake Oelrichs: drums, glockenspiel; Mike Overton: bass; Evan Shaw: alto saxophone.