Steve Horowitz: New Monsters (2012)
Old monsters? They were frightening, gargantuan, mythical beasts: fire-breathing, blood-lusting and not at all willing to put together anything close to a danceable riff. New Monsters, at least as envisioned by bassist Steve Horowitz on this Posi-Tone album, are a much more engaging bunch. There's still some fire-breathing in evidence, but the blood lust is kept at bay in favor of an abundance of delightful melodies, harmonies and rhythms.
Horowitz, who favors the electric bass guitar rather than the upright acoustic instrument, is at the head of a quintet of experienced players. It's a tight, tough unit, capable of some very powerful playing but also of much subtler and more controlled musicianship, as shown on "Miracle Melancholy" and "Journey To The East."
While Horowitz leads the session, tenor saxophonist Dan Plonsey, a long-time collaborator, composed all of the original tunes. Plonsey, whose previous credits include work with Anthony Braxton, Tom Waits and Eugene Chadbourne, cheerfully throws a few curve balls with some fun titles. These are complemented by the cover art (another fine Posi-Tone design), but they don't always accurately signpost the mood of the music. "Vision Pyramid Collapse" is the best of thesean almost apocalyptic phrase which fronts a joyous tune that incorporates a slinky bass line, jangly prepared piano and a catchy saxophone riff.
The jagged piano and drums interplay of "Brains For Breakfast" introduces "Herald Of Zombies." Once again, Plonsey's titles are diverting: this is no soundtrack to a George A. Romero nightmare. "Herald Of Zombies" sounds more like a Raymond Scott cartoon tune before Plonsey opens up with his most powerful solo, with pianist Scott Looney gradually coming to the fore with his own percussive scattergun showcase. Plonsey and alto saxophonist Steve Adams engage in imaginative, dueling interplay on "Shattered Silence:" indeed, this dual sax attack could well be said to characterize the New Monsters sound.
The band covers two tunesJohn Coltrane's "India" and Eric Dolphy's "The Red Planet." The numbers are merged together and given a driving and energetic arrangement, with some more terrific unison playing from the tenor and alto saxophones of Plonsey and Adams.
So these New Monsters are fun, funky, and far from something to be afraid of. Unless, of course, they're hiding under the bed.
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