The Night Crawlers: Down in the Bottom (2011)
Various shades of indigo, as in the blues, are more than suggested on Down in the Bottom, by Vancouver, Canada's The Night Crawlers. The music is crafted around the alliterative, musical hyperbole-flinging sound of the Hammond B3 organ. Cofounder Cory Weeds suggests that this is tribute to the Hammond B3 bands of the '50s and '60s, but that is where all comparison ends. The verve and depth of soulful musical excursions bring a unique character to the music produced by The Night Crawlers. This is music of the highest degree of creativity; a truly honest aural experience, wrought by a certain communal aspect of performance that seems to have almost vanished today.
The lean, yet sinewy arrangements have a force that enables the music to cascade over conscious listening and bury itself into the memory, where it takes hold of the inner ear. Chris Gestrin's stellar turn on the Hammond B3 recalls the magic of Booker T, Lonnie Smith, and the great Jimmy Smith as well, as he creates wave after wave of oceanic sound with his cohort of brass and woodwinds. And they rise up to the call every time they are poked and prodded by the crashing chords that Gestrin uses to lure them in. Weeds finds the biggest sound on the alto saxophone, echoing with heroism and soaring glissandos. Steve Kaldestad's dry roar on tenor saxophone is no less gigantic, but it is Gestrin who is always in the pocket, with one command performance after the other. The charts seem to have been written just for his genius, and the mighty cresting and falling continues from "Apercu" through "Goin' Down," "Zattitude," Lonnie Smith's "Love Bowl" and the tantalizing "Modal Issue."
Lest there seem to be just one pivot for this memorable performance, it must be said that baritone saxophonist, Chad Makela carves the air with the mighty harmonics of his big horn. His searing solo on "Zattitude" reaches for the heart of the melody, draws it out and twists and turns it inside out, imparting an elasticity to it that gives his harmonic turn an almost gymnastic quality to it. And guitarists Dave Sikula and Bill Coon bring a driving harmony to the charts whenever they step out and solo as well.
The surprise and somewhat of a highlight on the album is "Moonlight in Vermont." There is a certain taut emotion throughout this chart that is reminiscent of the great arrangements that Quincy Jones made for the Basie Band, when he wrote and arranged for them. This ballad breaks the mould of the blues that peppers the album, but it is outstanding. Chris Davis cries his way through several choruses in one of his best solos on record and Gestrin weeps and wails with high emotion as well. If this band were a more regular working group the world might be a better place because of their superlative music which seems to flow like a force of nature.
Track Listing: Apercu; Goin' Down; Market-Place; Esperanto; Down in the Bottom; Moonlight in Vermont; Neckbones; Zattitude; Bean O; Love Bowl; Modal Issue.
Personnel: Cory Weeds: alto saxophone; Steve Kaldestad: tenor saxophone; Chris Gestrin: Hammond B3 organ; Dave Sikula: guitar (3-5, 7, 9); Jesse Cahill: drums; Chad Makela: baritone saxophone (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11); Brad Turner: trumpet (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11); Chris Davis: trumpet (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11); Derry Byrne: trumpet (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11); Steve Mynett: trombone (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11); Rod Murray: trombone (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11); Jeremy Berkman: bass trombone (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11); Jodi Proznick: bass (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11); Bill Coon: guitar (1, 2, 6, 8, 10, 11).
Record Label: Cellar Live