Sex Mob’s Steven Bernstein has stated that he wants the group to revive the spirit of jazz, the spirit where people used to go out and "...listen to the music, go home and get laid.” Dog Out blares the same chord, like Sex Mob’s seedier, more bohemian (and Swedish) cousin. On their debut album these musicians pound, scream, howl, boom, slide and whisper in a husky, whiskey-preserved voice. To continue this scintillating high/low-art dialogue, think of Paul Newman in “Slap Shot” exhorting the delinquent Hansen brothers to play “old-time hockey.” In that time-honored spirit the brothers then wrap their knuckles in tinfoil, skate out and pummel the competition. That’s Dog Out, knuckles sheathed in tin foil, putting a fist in the jazz tradition’s eye, showing everyone how to swing like their life needs it. In short, Dog Out gives jazz back its stones, a big, swinging, heavy pair of them.
Dog Out ’s eleven tunes are sculptures made from junkyard refuse, recognizable objects twisted, bent and welded into surreal creatures from a perverted musical imagination. Saxophonists Fredrik Nordström and the Italian Alberto Pinton attach jagged melodies to the rusty, creaking supports of bassist Mattias Welin and drummer Jon Fält. The solos are raucous spirals of bluesy bluster, bar-room R&B, gospel shout and searing free jazz. The rhythms teeter between bubbling swing, atmospheric warble and punchy grooves. The two elements tussle with each other until a frightening, energetic tension emerges.
Pinton and Nordström wrote all the tunes, many of them built on unison horn lines and reckless walking pulses. But the forms seem more like ever-mutating shapes. “Dog’s Right” riffs along on chant-like figure as Welin and Fält toy with the dynamics. “Piece of Change” shows the group in a more restrained mood, going for texture more than propulsion, with Welin carving broad arco slices of low-end that frame Pinton’s aching clarinet and Nordström's barely-breathing sax. On the “The Tiny Mite” Nordström and Pinton, on baritone sax, ride a bedeviling rhythm set up by Welin’s uneven stepping around Fält’s shimmering ride.
The smeared production on Dog Out boldly delivers the quartet’s ragged approach to form. On “Wonderland Ballroom” and “The Group” the saxophones are stacked one on the other, their acidic tones bleeding together as they play a demented Basie-ite figure. The opening bass solo of “Cold Talk" foregrounds Welin’s sequoia-thick tone. Fält’s snare and bass drum rumble and thump like distant thunder while his cymbals and hi-hat crack and sizzle against the front-line. Density, depth, mass—this music has a hefty, tactile texture.
This palpable weight, the incessant riffing and unsettled rhythms can get too heavy at times, as if one is being beat with a blunt object, but it is the best beating I’ve ever taken. Dog Out plays “old-time jazz,” but not the swanky swing of the '30s. They play the bawdy backroom kind, where the barrelhouse piano hovers just beyond in-tune, where Bolden crafted his mythical sound, where the jelly got put into Jelly Roll.
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