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Jim & the Schrimps: Ain't No Saint

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Jim & the Schrimps: Ain't No Saint
Although the group's name (and album title) sound like something one might associate with a second-rate bar band, there is nothing oafish or pedestrian about drummer Jim Black's latest outfit, a hard-hitting ensemble which channels the distinctive energies of Black and his well-chosen compatriots. With saxophonists Asger Nissen (alto) and Julius Gawlik (tenor) and bassist Felix Henkelhausen alongside him, Black brings his characteristic manic intensity and crafty songwriting to an album filled with interesting and engaging musical interactions.

Black first encountered Henkelhausen and Nissen during his time teaching at Jazz Institute Berlin, in 2016, and soon afterward he met Gawlik, a rising star in Germany's NDR Bigband. This is their first recording together and it is clear from the opening track, "The Set-Up," that this quartet possesses a natural instinct for collective interplay, particularly as Black's John Bonham-inspired pounding and Henkelhausen's tough-edged groove push both saxophonists into some strenuous blowing. Black's fervid drumming style will never allow him to recede into the background, but he does an admirable job throughout the record of giving his bandmates the room they need to come to the fore, and the saxophonists are truly in top form. "SchrimpsBBQ" is especially invigorating, with a lightning-quick tempo which generates some serious fireworks from both horns. "Heyscram" might be even more frenetic, with particularly impassioned, intertwining exchanges between Nissen and Gawlik.

There is an occasional lack of cohesion to the record as a whole, given the stark shifts in musical modes explored from track to track. Black's tuneful sensibilities are front-and-center on a listener-friendly cut such as "Crashbash," and moving from that to the much more free-flowing "Riversgardens" directly afterward can be disconcerting. And then "Bellsimmer" follows, a piece which is even more abstract, with elliptical surgings which give all four musicians a chance to venture outward. The high-quality musicianship is consistent throughout, but one might like Black and his partners to stay a bit more rooted, especially given the relatively short duration of the tracks.

Quibbles aside, it is always an enjoyable experience to dig into a Jim Black album, and the spirit of surprise and adventure which has become the trademark of his projects is certainly present on Ain't No Saint.

Track Listing

The Set-Up (for Baikida Carroll); Snaggs; Asgingforit; Crashbash; Riversgardens; Bellsimmer; Surely; Schrimps BBQ; No Pull; Heyscram; The Once; Bowerfield.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Julius Gawlik: tenor saxophone

Album information

Title: Ain't No Saint | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Intakt Records


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