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The Worst Pop Band Ever's title displays a sense of humor and frivolity, but in name only. The Toronto based group consists of a talent pool whose members have performed on the fringes (groups like The Shuffle Demons) or with traditionalists (Wynton Marsalis). And since WPBE's formation in 2005 they've taken it to the streets with music that "amicably reconciles a love of both 'Indie Pop' and improvised music." Though their mantra humorously states to "Imagine the ugly love child of Miles Davis and Radiohead," there's nothing abnormal or unappealing in their sophomore release Dost Thou Believeth in Science?.
Street wise yet substantive, these compositions would appeal to fans of Vijay Iyer, Brad Mehldau, or DJ Logic, as dealt by the poised sax/piano front line (Chris Gale and Dafydd Hughes), a robust rhythm section (bassist Drew Birston and drummer Tim Shia), and excellent colorizations by turntablist Leo37.
"House For His Heart" sets the recording's persona with a mid-tempo groove, that's never overplayed or complicated as things begin to cook and simmer nicely. The operative word here is smooth, mellifluous saxophone against as steady throbbing drum and bass, colored by exquisitely placed turntable scratches. This cool vibe continues on "If Only My Name Was Steben And I Believed In Science" with undulating keyboard and soothing improvisational touches and solos.
The oddity in this consistent program is "Man Down" with its combination of blues shuffle and swing. But things get back on track with the atmospheric "Bonita," one of the highlights, with the sound of sampled voices, an expressive sax solo, and dreamy ostinato keyboarding. Things heat up a bit on "Minor Bruise" where Tim Shia's traps drive a sweltering mid-tempo melody.
The remaining tracks are equally satisfying and also feature two sublime vocal selections. The first, a magnetic remake of one of the all time great pop songs Burt Bacharach's and Hal David's "(They Long To Be) Close to You" where Elizabeth Shepherd's sultry voice intertwines with the band's otherworldly touches. It is magical. The second showcases Rhonda Stakich in "Yesterday's News," another delicately balanced work of fine music, vocals and mood. From start to finish Dost Thou Believeth in Science? is hip enough and deep enough for jazzers and non-jazzers alike.
Track Listing: House For His Heart; If Only My Name Was Steben and I Believed in
Science; Man Down; Bonita; Minor Bruise; V1; (They Long To Be) Close to
You; Pul; Bits and Pieces; Yesterday's News.
Personnel: Drew Birston: bass, weird vocalizations; Chris Gale: saxophone, weird
vocalizations; Dafydd Hughes: keyboards; Leo37: turntables; Tim Shia:
drums; Elizabeth Shepherd: vocals (7); Rob Ritchie: guitar (8); Rhonda
Stakich: vocals (10).
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.