Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Forty Fort (2010)
The experience of listening to the highly gifted quartet Mostly Other Do the Killing (MOPDtK) is like taking a ride on roller-coaster while drunk, but still trusting your life in the hands of a wild driver who often has some epileptic fits. It is fun, no doubt; a wild fun, like going to a circus. But after the surprise is over, and MOPDtK continues to surprise with every new release, it's a dizzying experience that can require rest from such a hyperactive ride.
With an already forged identity in its three previous releases, MOPDtK has perfected its recipe. Jumping back and forth between genres and styles, often in the same musical sentenceno matter what the context isand always taking risks and testing its musical envelope, its members know they can trust each other to make the necessary, constant adjustments. It feels as though bassist/leader/composer Moppa Elliot, trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist Jon Irabagon and drummer Kevin Shea are trying to express a number of sometimes conflicting musical personalities, and sometimes simultaneously. But it is always about fun, just as trumpeter Steven Bernstein's Sex Mob is about fun. Making jazz music, throughout its history and its myriad diversions, is sexy once again, forcing high-brow listeners to move more than their heads.
The fun begins with a cover shamelessly quoting the front cover of drummer Roy Haynes' classic Out of the Afternoon (Impulse!, 1962), and liner notes by Leonard Featherweight, a tribute to British jazz journalist Leonard Feather. "Pen Argyl" gallops between boogaloo blues, tempting funky rhythms and fast, mindless disco patterns, introducing Shea's electronics into the dense sound. "Rough and Ready" is an encyclopedic collection of seventies fusion clichés, most notably Weather Report, climaxing in a symbolic chaotic coda. "Blue Ball" manages to do the unthinkablemix trumpeter Herb Alpert's cheesy bossa-nova lounge playing with abstract micro-tonal free improvisation associated with innovative saxophonists like John Butcher. A quote from eighties pop star Sheena Easton's "Strut" is added to the smoking dish, all the while sounding surprisingly organic.
MOPDtK then opts for some anarchistic fun, with "Nanticoke Cocke" suggesting how the standard "Someday My Prince Will Come" would sound if played by one of saxophonist Albert Ayler's ensembles, with its members competing for solo space. "Little Hope" matches a typical Phil Collins pop song and some hard-swinging drumming à la Art Blakey, as if both being drummers is enough to make the connection. The title track is another encyclopedic demonstration of quotes; from fifties bebop to current smooth jazz; sparks of Duke Ellington's genius harmonization contrasting with bland eighties rock; and the Brecker Brothers' trademark fusion with a concluding drum solo. "Round Bottom, Square Top" and "St. Mary's Proctor" sound more conventional, as they keep a relatively rational framework, with the added spice of tabla and didgeridoo sampling. The ride ends with a cover of Neal Hefty's "Cute," written for Count Basie, and featuring an energetic drum solo.
Track Listing: Pen Argyl; Rough and Ready; Blue Ball; Nanticoke Coke; Little Hope; Forty Fort; Round Bottom, Square Top; St. Mary's Proctor; Cute.
Personnel: Peter Evans: trumpet; Jon Irabagon: alto and tenor saxophones; Moppa Elliott: bass; Kevin Shea: drums, electronics.