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Although its music is grounded in blues, bop and other time-honored constructs, the Mitch Marcus Quintet is not your usual jazz band. In fact, the MMQ's adventurous tunes, use of unusual meters and delightfully manic arrangements travel far beyond conventional musical borders.
The band's Countdown 2 Meltdown is a sonic riot bursting with invention and mischief. This is evident from the first notes of "Coffee and Cones." Marcus' tenor and Sylvain Carton's alto drive this tune, with its incantatory, around-the-forest-fire vocalizing. A dynamite exchange between bassist George Ban-Weiss and drummer Tomas Fujiwara highlights "Ron and the Machete." Guitarist John Abrahaminspired by the hornslights into the title track, playing with flawless rush-hour urgency. Abraham also stands out on the wonderfully raucous "Jimmy's Delight," laying down psychedelic riffs over Fujiwara's robust clamor. Trumpeter Darren Johnston joins the band for the improvisation "A's Lament." It doesn't quite work, but listening to their voices trying to agree is still intriguing.
The band's humor is on display throughout, from Marcus and Carton's seagull mimicry on "SS Clagett" to guest vocalist Lorin Benedict's tongue-in-cheek scatting on "HH." Carton and Marcus blow like inspired madmen on the satire "Tron McCain"; Abraham plays with such fury that his fret board must have been smoking at song's end. And if Quentin Tarantino were to re-imagine Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" as a '70s retro-epic flick, "The Albatross" would be its theme song. The funky horns and slashing guitar riffs may not be considered jazz, but it's sure damn fun listening.
Countdown 2 Meltdown shows that, in both musical and recreational senses, the key word for the MMQ is "play." The guys are simply having a blast and they want everybody to be in on the fun.
Track Listing: Coffee and Cones; Ron and the Machete; Countdown 2 Meltdown; A's Lament; Jimmy's Delight; SS Clagett; Tron McCain; Wonton; HH; The Albatross.
Personnel: Mitch Marcus: tenor saxophone; Sylvain Carton: alto saxophone; Mike Abraham: guitar; George Ban-Weiss: bass; Tomas Fujiwara: drums, gongs;
Darren Johnston: trumpet (track 4); Lorin Benedict: vocals (track 9).
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.