Having been simultaneously inspired by and ironic about '80s smooth jazz on the excellent Slippery Rock
(Hot Cup Records, 2013), Mostly Other People Do the Killing
delve back further into history to explore pre-War genres on Red Hot. It's a tall order for a foursome, so bassist and leader Moppa Elliott
has added Brandon Seabrook
on banjo, Ron Stabinsky
on piano and David Taylor
on bass trombone to fully exploit the possibilities inherent in post New Orleans modes. Though the new voices successfully fill out the ensembles and expand the instrumental palette, there is a downside: we don't get to hear quite so much of the stellar team of trumpeter Peter Evans
and reedman Jon Irabagon
One consequence of drawing upon such a distant age is that the stylistic juxtapositions between the modern and the source era become jarringly obvious, having the side effect of revealing Elliott's compositional gambits with startling clarity: the abrupt jump cuts, the irreverent exaggerations and the in your face contrasts. Cram in the period detail of a polyphonic front line, shout choruses, block chords, stop time figures and short solo breaks, and it's a madcap, even disorientating, experience. Even that's not the end of it, as if in thrall to some fevered logic, Elliott also gleefully inserts passages of klezmer, free improv, modal vamp and Latin groove into the mix.
That theme of colliding textures bleeds into the longer solos which announce many numbers. Drummer Kevin Shea
undertakes a wide ranging survey of percussion styles to launch "Zelienople," maintaining his riotous approach in opposition to the ensuing steady group tempo, while in a tour de force introduction to "King Of Prussia" Stabinsky essays a statement that consists almost entirely of fragmentary quotes from a dizzying selection of tunes. Neither is as extreme as Seabrook's feature beginning the title cut (incidentally a mash up of at least five different songs by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) which alternates sine wave electronics with acoustic banjo fills. Most rewarding musically is the bassist's lead in to "Turkey Foot Corner" apparently following instruction to make something from a restricted menu comprising just double stops, glissandi and wide intervallic leaps.
It takes consummate skill to be able to navigate such choppy waters so seamlessly and this crew have it in abundance. But while undoubtedly smart, the carefully plotted anarchy takes some getting used to, and may even deter some listeners. That would be a shame, as once past the intentionally jolting polarities, we are ultimately left with a typically irreverent, occasionally infuriating, but always staggeringly inventive homage to the jazz canon.
Personnel: Peter Evans: trumpet; Jon Irabagon: soprano and C melody saxophone; David Taylor: bass trombone; Brandon Seabrook: banjo and electronics; Ron Stabinsky: piano; Moppa Elliott: bass; Kevin Shea: drums and percussion.