Mostly Other People Do the Killing has a way of making great music sound accidental. So Disasters Vol. 1 is as suitable a name for this collection as it would be for any of their fourteen albums. In past versions, they have boasted big names such as Jon Irabagon, Peter Evans, and rising talents like guitarist Brandon Seabrook. Drummer Kevin Shea and bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, are two-thirds of the current group and the remaining original members of MOPDtK. Ron Stabinsky became a regular member of MOPDtK with Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup, 2015) but had performed with the group live in 2013 and on the Hot Cup album Blue (2014). Elliot, Shea and Stabinsky released the unexpected trio debut Paint (Hot Cup) in 2017.
Disasters Vol. 1 is not a double-entendre title; the tracks refer to Pennsylvania disasters. Some, such as "Three Mile Island," are obvious references while the underground fires of "Centralia" are less known. What those pieces and most of the album have in common is a swinging, shuffling, dance feel with rock and roll elements. The fun belies the title sources. Only on "Johnstown" are there brief passages that reflect the solemnity of the horrific floods and fires of 1889.
Swing and blues always had a place in Elliot's compositions, but in MOPDtK's complex, larger iterations, it was more challenging for a listener to isolate them. The trio version of the group is often more straightforward in approach but hardly conventional. Unlike the all-acoustic Paint, Disasters Vol. 1 sees Stabinsky and Shea doubling up on electronics. The enhancements are usually subtle but on a track like "Marcus Hook" they can be shrill and detract from the piece. Still, followers of MOPDtK have come to expect some level of their trademark impertinence. As a whole, Disasters Vol. 1 is an excellent, if eccentric, piano trio album. Would it be inappropriate to hope for more such disasters?
Three Mile Island; Exeter; Marcus Hook; Wilkes-Barre; Centralia; Johnstown; Boyertown;
Dimock; Wilkes-Barre (alt take).
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