Dead Cat Bounce: Chance Episodes (2012)
It does not behoove to fall for the apparent flippancy of Dead Cat's Bounce. The name of the ensemble is merely an ironic take on the state of the union; and on a larger canvas it casts aspersions on the relevance of capitalism without the folk tradition. Even its use of klezmer music and a mash of marching music, folk blues rhythms and other cultural motifs are to suggest the richness of Babel-like nature of America's music. The wry sense of humor that occasionally seeps through the thin veil of irony is meant to suggest that the Cats have been watching the world of Americana waltz by while in sphinx-mode. Now, when the listening public is least likely to expect it, the Cats awake, stretch musically to cover a musical panoply of ideas that has eventually come to be the central axis of Tin Pan Alley. But that kind of song is so cleverly hidden in the wild cacophony that sometimes pervades even the most mellifluous music.
While Chance Encounters suggests truncated, episodic music, in reality there is a deeper connection in episodes that is thematic, melodic and modal. And, more than anything else, the music is visually and narratively connected. The fact that Matt Steckler, who appears to be the alpha male of the group suggests childhood memories would only be as anecdotal as musical history itself, were it not for the fact the persistence of memory drives all art and it is often sometimes impossible to separate that which is seared into the memory via the back of the retina or the inner ear. No matter; there is immense beauty in "Far From The Matty Crowd." The pastoral sweep of "Watkins Glen" is meditative and a portent of the episodes to come, hot on the heels of "Salvation and Doubt" which, by contrast, challenges with its in-your-face heartlessness. Wagnerian themes of death and transfiguration are explores with unabashed musical fervor (akin to gospel) the meaning of redemption and the attendant doubts about whether all of humanity will have a place in Valhalla.
And all of this is actually done with the glorious crisscrossing of multiple counterpoints between reeds and woodwinds, as well as with string and drums. Despite the inherent softness of reeds and woodwinds compared with horns, the heraldic nature of the music prevails. This is largely due to the magnificent arrangements throughout. Charles Kohlhase's baritone is the voice of authority with which chance encounters grow in significance, but it is the brassy confluence of the saxophones and flutes from Steckler, Jared Sims and the breathtaking Terry Goss which merge together as one to conjure up the breath of the soulsomething that runs deep in this significant music.
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: reeds; Jared Sims: reeds; Terry Goss: reeds; Charlie Kohlhase: reeds; Dave Ambrosio: bass; Bill Carbone: drums.