Drummer Ethan Winogrand's early days were spent in the punk band Joe Cool, playing alongside such innovative acts as Television, The Talking Heads, Blondie and the Ramones at New York's CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. An early interest in jazz led to a variety of side-man gigs and four years living in Copenhagen. Moving from Brooklyn to the north of Spain in 2000, Winogrand assembled an international cast for Tangled Tango
. Drawing on his varied past, Winogrand's swinging post-bop writing is bolstered by subtle rock smarts and an edgy Downtown sensibility.
Tangled Tango features a similar line-up to Winogrand's previous album, Made In Brooklyn (Clean Feed, 2003). Brooklyn-based guitarist Ross Bonadonna returns, with Spanish saxophonist Gorka Benitez replacing Donny McCaslin, while Eric Mingus' slot is now filled by Portuguese bassist Carlos Barretto. Mingus briefly returns for a cameo appearance on two cuts and trumpeter Steven Bernstein (Sex Mob, Lounge Lizards) sits in on five tracks.
A pastiche of styles and genres, Winogrand's aesthetic is eclectic, but not jarring. Drawing inspiration from the noir-ish atmospherics of the early Lounge Lizards and Jazz Passengers, his writing is colorful, cinematic and evocative.
The title track struts along a one chord vamp, featuring a knotty electric guitar line from Bonadonna that complements Bernstein's expressive plunger muted solo. Pieces like "Broadway Jitters," "Transmissions" and "Time To Kill" are definitive. Accessible and spry boppish tunes, they swing with an appealing lilt, barely concealing their muscular drive. Demonstrating the core groups' empathetic sensibility, "Crocodilian Wag" and "Wrapping Paper" are collectively composed improvisations that are exploratory yet cohesive. Integrating understated rock and funk riffs and rhythms, "Pickup Sticks" and "She's Flying Gumbo Low" add a genial sensibility to the session.
An agreeable and solid effort, Tangled Tango is a reminder that jazz need not be overly stuffy or cerebral to deliver the goods.
Personnel: Gorka Benitez: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Steven Bernstein: trumpet, slide trumpet (2, 5, 7, 9, 12); Ross Bonadonna: guitar; Carlos Barretto: double bass; Eric Mingus: electric upright bass (5, 7); Ethan Winogrand: drums.