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Album Review

Old Time Musketry: Drifter


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Old Time Musketry: Drifter
Old and new collide and intermingle in a variety of appealing ways on Drifter, the second long-player by the Brooklyn-based collective, Old Time Musketry. It's funny, though, how old has become new and new has become old. JP Schlegelmilch, the keyboardist and primary composer for the band (he wrote all but 2 of Drifter's varied and evocative compositions) specializes in the accordion, an instrument all but conscribed to the scrapheap of history until the innovations of artists such as Astor Piazzola and Guy Klucevsek piqued many an interest during the latter-most 20th Century. Coupled with Adam Schneit's clarinet, the quartet's instrumentation, at times, outwardly resembles the ultimate in old fogey-ism to those not conversant with recent trends in modern music. Listening to Drifter suggests emphatically otherwise: this music is relentlessly hip, engaging, and purely a creation of 21st Century artists.

Schlegelmich's composing takes a broad view, as does Adam Schneit's (he wrote the other two pieces). The music on Drifter is so personal that it's different to pigeonhole. There are elements of Americana (if the music of Stephen Foster, Bix Beiderbecke, Raymond Scott, and Ornette Coleman can be considered "Americana") throughout the album, particularly in the title track, the brief "Weird Waltz," "The Turtle Speaks," and "Two Painters." Here, relatively close parallels would be the music of Bill Frisell (specifically Quartet, Elektra / Nonesuch, 1996) and Andy Biskin. The comparison to Frisell is a valid one: Schlegelmilch has studied the guitarist's music and has recorded a solo piano album of his compositions (Throughout: The Music of Bill Frisell, SteepleChase LookOut, 2013). The comparison to Biskin is not solely due to the fact that Biskin plays clarinet and digs Stephen Foster. As with Biskin's music, there's an aged, immigrant charm to the melodies on Drifter that's leavened by no-nonsense modern jazz sensibilities. It's that friction that keeps me on the edge of my seat as I listen to this album. That, and the amazing playing by all four members of the quartet.

While there's practically zero conventional "straight-ahead" jazz here, rhythms flow and surge in a manner that doesn't exist outside of modern jazz. "Transmitter Park," "Pastorale" and "Odd Ray" each assert themselves as intensely forward-leaning jazz pieces in completely different ways, while managing to be more than simple vehicles for keyboard and reed solos. Drummer Max Goldman—whose dazzling work also animates pianist Danny Fox's excellent trio—and bassist Phil Rowan are the chief enablers in this regard. Rowan's work throughout is highly commendable. He locks in wonderfully with Goldman and is a resourceful soloist and an excellent arco player who adds greatly to the band's depth of sound. Schlegelmilch and Schneit are rhythmically acute and harmonically astute players with massive chops and great sound.

Improvisation, while clearly central to the band's efforts, is artfully-balanced with various compositional elements. There's also an outside jazz thread running through a lot of these pieces. On "February March" and "Two Painters," Schneit's tenor engages Schlegelmilch's keys in a manner reminiscent of Dewey Redman and Keith Jarrett duking it out on one of Jarrett's wonderful old Impulse! albums. Goldman's free-bop stylings on the latter provide several piquant reminders of Paul Motian's wonderful playing in Jarrett's band.

Old Time Musketry's music is clearly challenging, but it's not overly complex; the heroism is evenly divided between the band's improvising and in the way the band members' distinct musical personalities inhabit each piece. One gets a very strong sense that the primary consideration here is the telling of tales via instrumental music. More than just another jazz album, Drifter is a fascinating and beautifully-told musical story. You get to supply the plot and the characters.

Track Listing

February March; Kept Close; Odd Ray; Drifter; Weird Waltz; The Turtle Speaks; Pastorale; Two Painters; Transmitter Park.


Adam Schneit: saxophone, clarinet, compositions; JP Schlegelmilch: accordion, piano, compositions; Phil Rowan: bass; Max Goldman: drums.

Album information

Title: Drifter | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: NCM East

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