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The neo-Swing resurgence advanced by such colorfully-plumaged groups as the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies may have fizzled in the last few months, but the Quality Six continue to solider on. There debut record for Delmark Heretic Blues showcased a band whose eclecticism and musicianship stood them shoulders above the competition. Rather than simply plugging an alternative rock esthetic into timeworn Swing standards that inaugural effort demonstrated something decidedly fresh and different in a genre that already seemed hackneyed and over-hyped at its inception.
Listeners familiar with the Quality Six through their initial Delmark record who are hoping for more of the same eclectic Swing-centered music on may be surprised by this sophomore effort. While the mutant strains of Swing that formed the core of their earlier group sound are still present in moderation, this time room is also made entirely different assemblage of varicolored influences. Snatches of lounge, exotica, surf, soul, rock and R&B all bubble up in the frothy pot of derivations the band routinely draws upon. Most noticeable is the ragged craggy edge attached to Bunn’s guitar and the crisp, cleanly articulated single note runs that made up his work on the debut effort are largely absent here. O’Donnell’s rough and tumble drums remain intact however and his malleable rhythms keep the Six’s slippery pistons firing on the majority of the tracks.
The disc opens with a groover “She’s Got the Apples” and saunters slickly into the Django-tinged “Man Alive” that updates the Hot Club Du France ambience with amplified flourishes over a sea tidal press rolls. A lullaby of brushes and luminous chords surfaces on the languid “One Lonely Drum” and Bird’s crooning vocals lighten the mood and caress the lyrics on this, and several other tracks. There’s also a healthy nod to New Orleans street funeral sounds on several pieces that comprise what O’Donnell calls the Death Trilogy- “Oh, So Quietly He Went,” Tell Everyone I Said Goodbye” and “No More Oscar.”
On tunes like “The Blanket Drag” and “The Depths” the group settles into spooky Tom Waits inspired atmospherics thanks mainly to Hirsch’s throbbing bass and Bunn’s spidery plectrum musings. The disc ends on an odd note with “Chocolate Eggs,” a musically backed vocal recollection by O’Donnell of a practical joke involving fecal matter and Easter candy. Some of the original luster may have tarnished in the interim between albums, but the Quality Six still present themselves as fresh-voiced collective unit that routinely rejects rote categorization.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.