The two-minute "Mob Rule Invocation," which starts Sex Mob Meets Medeski, is enough to turn the tables on conventional jazz quintet genre, pointing the way to bridge the gap between the melodic and music that is so squarely and pristinely raucous that its intention is measurable in the fun the musicians are clearly having.
Recorded live at the Willisau Jazz Festival in 2006, this album reaches across a spectrum from spontaneous improvisation to pieces from Duke Ellington and Count Basie, pop artist Prince and 007 film composer John Barry. The original Sex Mob quartet of drummer Kenny Wollesen, bassist Tony Scherr, slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein and alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss, joined by Medeski, Martin & Wood on organ, stretches content to the limits and sheds new light on the familiar.
No instrumentalist ignores his place in the field; in fact, each carves his own line so deeply that subtlety is an unsuitable word to assign to the music produced, even if it is in ballad mode ("This Never Happened to the Other Guy," "This Never Happened Part 2").
The musicians are unstoppable. Once the music opens up ("Mob Rule 1") through a huge crescendo, develops slowly and methodically only to resurge in an orderly rowdiness ("Black and Tan Fantasy"), an overall pattern seems to be established. The overt changes in tempo and instrument application are the keys to transforming the music.
Bernstein and Krauss are in this for the number of times that they can coincide harmonically; providing so much joy, humor and celebration that it's impossible to imagine splitting them up musically. Medeski's organ playing is without doubt a means to extenuate the horn lines ("Mob Rule 2/Little Liza Jane") or paradoxically to erase a prevailing edge by splaying and squeezing the mechanical chords ("Sign of the Times," "Down on the Farm"). His soloing pushes the role of the organ into unexpected places.
The album is divided into three suites; the movement through each is seamless and orchestral, touching a range of tempos and volume and character changes from cacophonous to boisterous to songful. Bernstein's trumpet preaches a melodramatic intro which folds into Krauss' alto fluttering, only to unite within the same line ("Mob Rule 3"), the organ supporting them the whole way sometimes ominously ("Odd Job"), at other times mellifluously ("This Never Happened, Part 2," "Blue and Sentimental") or with profound unadulterated statements ("Kenny Supreme").
No less involved in blending complexity and simplification within the musical conversation are the bass and drums. Scherr nails solo pizzicatos ("Blue and Sentimental," "Odd Job") and never fades from the instrumental mix ("You Only Live Twice"). Wollesen pulls together the instrumental information with his own discrete intense rounds on the drum set ("Kenny Supreme," "You Only Live Twice"). His work on the tympanis in "Odd Job" demonstrates the exaggeration with which the record blooms.
This record summarizes a great ride with a hard-driving nearly rock sensibility that does nothing but cause sweat and a fabulous feel-good vibe.
Personnel: Kenny Wollesen: drums and percussion; Tony Scherr: bass; Steven
Bernstein: slide trumpet; Briggan Krauss: alto saxophone; John