This mini-boxed set consists of three CDs, featuring keyboardist/composer, Graham Connah’s “Sour Note Seven” and rock flavored, “Jettison Slinky” bands, recorded live and in the studio. With this release, the listener will be treated to a composite of Connah’s present-day inclinations as both of these units convey the keyboardist’s deeply personalized compositional style and cleverly envisioned arrangements.
Connah’s “Sour Note Seven” septet kicks off the proceedings (disc one), with a nifty cross-polarization of medium tempo swing and free-jazz motifs, intersecting discourses and complex little big band type horn charts, recorded live at “Bruno’s” in San Francisco. Through it all, the musicians’ inject whimsy, humor, and lilting harmonies into their seemingly extensive repertoire while Jewlia Eisenberg glistens many of the buoyant themes and climactic overtures with her upper register, wordless vocals. The piece titled, “Hollow Deli” commences as some sort of quirky avant-garde, chamber type vibe, while the horn section elicits softy stated melodies atop drummer Smith Dobson Jr. and bassist Trevor Dunn’s off kilter march style beats.
Connah’s “Jettison Slinky” aggregation comprises both disks two and three, as the artist directs his nonet thru a series of electrified, quasi progressive rock/modern jazz works that rekindle memories of the psychedelic age along with a few subtle nods to the late Frank Zappa. Throughout, guitarist Alex Candelaria pursues rip roaring, single note leads along with his occasional utilization of the wah-wah pedal, EFX and piercing, sustained notes, while the soloists’ engage in circuitous paths, not unlike the “Sour Note Seven” ensemble.
Vocalist Nancy Clarke’s lilting vocals counterbalance many of these highly charged pieces that are all about meticulously crafted unison choruses, tricky time signatures and in-your-face rock rhythms. Pieces such as “The Band Is Over But The T-Shirt Lingers On” and “Spreadin’ The Guilt Around” feature famed clarinetist Ben Goldberg’s wrathfully rendered flurries amid the pumping rhythms, Candelaria’s psycho guitar and Connah’s endearing analog synth solos. They even work a slightly disfigured New Orleans shuffle groove into the mix on, “Escape From Theme Park Pokey.” Overall, Connah’s latest, packs a potent punch and would be an excellent introduction for those who have yet to investigate his venerable artistry and altogether cunning interrogations of modern music. Strongly recommended.
Allen Huotari’s June 1999 AllAboutJazz.com interview with Graham Connah
Personnel: Sour Note Seven: Jewlia Eisenberg; vocal: Ben Goldberg; clarinets: Rob Sudduth; saxophones: Marty Wehner; trombones: Trevor Dunn; bass: Smith Dobson Jr.; drums: Graham Connah; piano, synthesizer: (Steve Adams; saxophone and Chuck Mackinnon; trumpet on part of