Dead Cat Bounce: Chance Episodes (2011)
Saxophonist/composer Matt Steckler mentions "remembering things anew," when describing the music he wrote for Chance Episodes. Dead Cat Bounce certainly "remembers" several influences on its fourth album, yet its members recollect via their own unique voices.
The Boston-based sextet munches on several speeds of hardboiled swing for "Food Blogger," with calypso beats sandwiched throughout. "Silent Movie, Russia 1995" travels between Terry Goss' big, bluesy tenor sax and Jared Sims' jagged klezmer riffs on clarinet. Sims also contributes an addictively greasy soprano sax to "Township Jive Revisited," while Steckler takes a more ruminative approach to the horn on "Bio Dyno Man." Steckler also brings the disc to a funky close on alto for "Living The Dream." Charlie Kohlhase's baritone sax purrs and roars underneath it all, with a rhythmically and harmonically splintering alto solo on "Salon Sound Journal."
Above all, Dead Cat Bounce evokes the sheer textural wonder of a jazz reed section. The four-man frontline puts its saxophones, flutes and clarinets through their paces, exploring rich Duke Ellingtonian shades ("Salon Sound Journey," "Salvation & Doubt"), whimsically eerie hues reminiscent of the World Saxophone Quartet and the Art Ensemble Of Chicago ("Watkins Glen," "Madame Bonsilene"), and bright, wailing accents from the pulpit and the African coast ("Tourvan Confessin,' Township Jive Revisited"). Dead Cat Bounce paints with a wide range of familiar colors, yet the players' distinct tones and expressive techniques suggest a palette rather than a reproduction.
The interplay within this fourteen year-old ensemble keeps things cogent despite rapid shifts of meter, groove and orchestration. Bassist Dave Ambrosio and drummer Bill Carbone provide a solid yet elastic anchor, with "Far From The Matty Crowd" spotlighting Carbone's rolling percussion between saxophone arabesques. Ambrosio's strings provide a foil to all those reeds at key moments, for example his bow work on the unnerving "Watkins Glen" or the resonant strumming on "Bio Dyno Man."
Steckler also mentions, "narrating, through sound, a timeline of human experience." Whatever philosophical or personal motives are behind these compositions, as a pure journey of sound, Chance Episodes tells an impressive story of its own.
Track Listing: Food Blogger; Tourvan Confessin'; Far From The Matty Crowd; Salon Sound Journal; Bio Dyno Man; Silent Movie, Russia 1995; Watkins Glen; Salvation & Doubt; Township Jive Revisited; Madame Bonsilene; Living The Dream.
Personnel: Matt Steckler, Jared Sims, Terry Goss, Charlie Kohlhase: reeds; Dave Ambrosio: bass; Bill Carbone: drums.