Steve Horowitz: New Monsters (2012)
The Posi-Tone label has positioned itself as a distinguished dealer in modern jazz and classy throwback sounds, demonstrating catholic tastes and a willingness to invest in artists of the established and unknown variety. New Monsters, however, doesn't fall firmly into either category. San Francisco bassist Steve Horowitz oversees this outing that features free blowing fantasias and avant-garde musings, yet he understands the importance of finding cohesion in ensemble stability, grooves and repetitive riffs.
While Horowitz plays producer/puppet master, he also plays the straight man. He locks the grooves in place with drummer Jim Bove, while tenor saxophonist Dan Plonsey, who composed the large majority of these pieces, and multi-reedist Steve Adams act as attention-grabbing aggressors. They dominate a good deal of the program with their intriguing lines, zany counterpoint and madcap moves. The final piece of the puzzle, pianist Scott R. Looney, works both sides of the equation, as he works his way into madness with the reeds or falls in line with his rhythm mates.
The album opens with some music that's more playful than purposeful ("Imperfect"). The quintet seems to be torn between two worlds as the rhythm section succumbs to the forces of stasis before the entire band breaks into a section of angular, serial-sounding music ("Mirror Earth"), but they eventually find their niche. After melding the work of reed mavericks John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy on "India/The Red Planet," the band seems to find its footing. Looney's prepared piano plays a prominent role in the success of the simple and groovy "Vision Pyramid Collapse," but it's even more important in the overall architecture of "Miracle Melancholy," which proves to be one of the album's strongest tracks. Adams' flute and Plonsey's tenor saxophone join forces in creating an Asiatic exploration of the macabre, creating tension and uncertainty throughout. Their mid-album winning streak continues with the breezy beginning and far-reaching journey of "Dragon Of Roses" and the engrossing "New Boots For Bigfoot."
While the band wisely keeps these quirky little numbers on the shorter side, the album could have benefited from a bit more editing, with the removal of the few aimless numbers that threaten to taint the work as a whole. Fortunately, this group also delivers more than a few pieces that are highly pleasing in their pursuit of disparate ideals and willingness to branch out beyond the status quo.
Track Listing: Imperfect Life; Mirror Earth; Journey To The East; India/Red Planet; New Monsters; Vision Pyramid Collapse; Miracle Melancholy; Dragon Of Roses; New Boots For Bigfoot; Shattered Silence; Brains For Breakfast; Herald Of Zombies; Cylinder.
Personnel: Dan Plonsey: tenor saxophone; Steve Adams: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Scott Looney: piano; Steve Horowitz: bass; Jim Bove: drums.
Record Label: Posi-Tone Records