Throttle Elevator Music: Emergency Exit

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Throttle Elevator Music: Emergency Exit
The sub-genre of "punk jazz" has existed—on paper— since the 1970s when Patti Smith proposed a collaboration with Ornette Coleman. That partnership did not materialize. When all the moving pieces are pulled together there is little substance to suggest that the category ever shared specific practices or conventions. Then, in 2012, Throttle Elevator Music emerged with their self-titled debut (Wide Hive Records). The original group was a trio posing as a quintet. Drums and guitars were manned by Mike "Lumpy" Hughes who appeared from the Oakland underground punk scene. Bass and piano were played by Matt Montgomery whose diverse resume includes Hafez Modirzadeh and DJ Quest. The lineup was filled by saxophonist Kamasi Washington before his breakthrough album The Epic (Brainfeeder, 2015) and his wider national exposure backing Kendrick Lamar.

In a 2017 interview, Wide Hive label founder/producer/multi-instrumentalist Gregory Howe announced that Throttle Elevator Music's Retrospective marked the end of the collective's run. Emergency Exit is the sixth album from Throttle Elevator Music though it is culled from almost ten years of previous sessions. The formation evolved with IV (Wide Hive, 2016) where Howe, who had contributed much of the writing, became an active player on guitar and piano for that album only. Trumpeter Erik Jekabson also joined the group at that time. TEM's final Wide Hive studio album, Retrorespective (2017) brought in guitarist Ava Mendoza and drummer Thomas McCree.

The tracks on Emergency Exit are typically short for this collective; most TEM compositions are under five-minutes. The overlooked pieces that make up the album represent the best overall collection from the group. "Sublime in the Base," a play on the title "Bass in the Sublime" from TEM's debut, is a distinctive combination of groove and majestic horns. Similarly, "Third Reflection" drops some reggae flavor into the dream-like atmosphere created by Washington's long, languorous tenor lines. More mixing of styles emerges on "Jagged Reform," where the interplay between Hughes' pounding rock rhythm and driving hard bop creates something different. "Another Moth Drawn To City Light" is an exquisite piece that features Washington and Erik Jekabson on flugelhorn, and Mike Blankenship on Farfisa organ. It contrasts nicely with the lashing rock number "Rattle Thicket."

Though Throttle Elevator Music is a leaderless group, they are often billed as "featuring Kamasi Washington." Washington has marque value to be sure, and he has been hailed by some as the "next thing" in jazz. He has been compared to John Coltrane, circa 1960, and at times he does evoke that imagery. But those plaudits bring an unfair burden to an artist. Washington's work as a leader is bursting with undeniable promise, confidence, and energy, that will need time to validate those high expectations. Here, in the familiar company of these musicians, Washington's gifts shine. It is a shame that Throttle Elevator Music has ceased to be.

Track Listing

Sublime in the Base; Third Reflection; Jagged Reform; Another Moth Drawn to City Light; Second Breather; Innerspatial Search; Rattle Thicket; Art of the Warrior; Surrender at Station Three; Marching Instructions.


Kamasi Washington: saxophone; Erik Jekabson: trumpet; Gregory Howe: guitar; Mike Hughes: drums; Kasey Knudsen: saxophone, alto; Ross Howe: guitar; Matt Montgomery: piano; Mike Blankenship: keyboards.

Additional Instrumentation

Erik Jekabson: flugelhorn; Gregory Howe: bass, B3 organ; synthesizer; Mike Hughes: drums; Kasey Knudsen: tenor saxophone; Matt Montgomery: bass.

Album information

Title: Emergency Exit | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Wide Hide Records

Post a comment about this album



Shop Amazon


Keisuke Kishi
Old Souls
The KUH Trio
Other Worlds
Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Soundprints
Mono No Aware
Roberto Pianca Sub Rosa
Live at NIR Studios
Georg Graewe, Kjell Nordeson, Jon Raskin Trio


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.