OddSong is a chamber ensemble led by composer Darrell Katz, and distilled from the membership of the larger JCA Orchestra. It features vibraphone, violin, saxophones and voice, on music which veers between art songs and bluesy sax-led jazz tunes. Most of Katz's original compositions on this album feature poems by his late wife, poet Paula Tatarunis, but the tracks also stretch out to include songs by Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington.
Katz's original writing, especially in the works that use Tatarunis' words, is flexible and expressive, with violinist Helen Sherrah-Davies and marimba player & vibraphonist Vessela Stoyanova often leading lively music over a four- saxophone background while vocalist Rebecca Shrimpton sings with drama, sensitivity and humor. "Guiding Narrative" contains philosophical musings sung over soothing back-and-forth rhythms. "Women Talking," emerges out of a collage of female voices to have Shrimpton sing over a percussive blend of violin and marimba which leads to a soprano sax solo from Phil Scarff. "Galeanthropolgy" is named after a psychiatric condition in which someone believes they are a cat. The lyrics for this song were actually written by Katz from Tatarunis' occasional asides about wishing to be a cat. On this track the singer's voice playfully toys with the melody while Sherrah-Davies takes the instrumental lead with cat-like swoops and screeches. "Outta Horn" comes from a Tatarunis poem inspired by seeing a late-career John Coltrane performance in which the saxophonist stopped playing the tenor, beat his chest and sang. Shrimpton talks through this story with casual hipster nonchalance as the saxophones dart and skitter around her.
Elsewhere, the four saxophone players, Scarff, Rick Stone, Lihi Haruvi, and Melanie Howell-Brooks, come into the spotlight, taking on the slow-rocking blues sonorities of the World Saxophone Quartet on Hendrix's "Belly Button Window," Ellington's "I Got It Bad and that Ain't Good," the Katz-Tatarunis song "The Red Blues" and even the old Standells' garage rock classic, "Dirty Water." This album shows even more facets when the group does a soulful version of the folk song, "Wayfaring Stranger" and makes a dreamy lullaby out of James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James." Perhaps the most important part of the entire enterprise is Rebecca Shrimpton, whose vocals tie everything together. She is capable of talking tough, cooing sweetly, and singing with humor and emotion as the song dictates. Her finest performance on this album comes in her dramatic acapella singing of Mingus' "Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love" which goes from a tentative whisper to a impressive display of vocal force and subtlety. She is an extremely underrated singer.
Darrell Katz's OddSong blends its unique combination of instruments to create musical art that conveys whatever kind of mood or emotion the leader wants without the use of a conventional rhythm section. They are an excellent group and this is a strong sampling of what they can do.
Flotsametrics; Guiding Narrative; Women Talking; Outta Horn; Galeanthropology; I am a Poor
Wayfaring Stranger; Sweet Baby James; Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love; Belly Button Window;
Error Status; The Red Blues; I've Got It Bad and that Ain't Good; Microtonal/Dirty Water; New