This bracing sophomore album from Vancouver's improvising sextet Sick Boss resonates with the beyond-genre territory of the late Jaimie Branch's Fly Or Die quartet. At a surface level there is the shared use of trumpet and cello, but deeper than that, Businessless embraces the riot grrrl abandon so beloved of Branch. Echoes of Fly Or Die often crop up: the brief melodic motif of opener "Useless Genius 1" is something Branch might have written, as are episodes on other tracks, and like Branch, Sick Boss' leader and composer, guitarist Cole Schmidt, has a taste for anthemic flourishes and finales. Schmidt is aware of the common ground: track four, "Doctor Dawn" (see the YouTube below), is dedicated to Branch.
So we are talking Fly Or Die-ish outside agitators. But there is a difference. When Schmidt's cranked-up axe dominates proceedings, as it frequently does, Sick Boss' sound becomes overwhelmingly rockist and decibelist, something Branch's acoustic band, despite its gritty latter-day post-production electronica, eschewed. By the same token, Branch's trumpet never got lost in the mix, while that of Sick Boss' JP Carter mostly does. Anyone who enjoys Raoul Bjorkenheim at his most confrontational is likely to feel at home.
The most interesting parts of Businessless, however, are those spotlighting violinist Josh Zubot and cellist Peggy Lee. The pair, working in tandem, shine on "Doctor Dawn" and even more brightly so on "When Buzzards Leave The Bones," where they are joined by bassist James Meger in a memorable arco romp. Personal opinion: Less high-decibel guitar and more high-interest strings would make for a more singular sound.
Useless Genius 1; When The Buzzards Leave The Bones; Useless Genius 2; Doctor Dawn; Useless Genius 3; CJ Blues.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.