Forward-thinking drummer Vinnie Sperrazza has proven to be an exceptionally creative and magnanimous bandleader; Hide Ye Idols
expands well beyond the imaginative inroads made on Apocryphal
, his impressive 2014 debut for Loyal Label. Conveying a distinctive group sound, the original lineup featured on his first albumalto saxophonist Loren Stillman
, guitarist Brandon Seabrook
, and bassist Eivind Opsvik
returns, now a touring unit with a namesake evoking its origins. Produced by Paris Monster's Geoff Kraly and mastered by Kneebody
's Nate Wood
, this modernistic session elicits a bold futuristic sound, buoyed by the quartet's collective synergy.
Inspired by personal histories, literary figures, and cultural references, this urbane collection is thematically unified by the concepts of community, family and personal growth. The session opens with "Sun Ra," which unfolds as an impressionistic group evocation, rather than a staid tribute. It also provides tonal continuity to the proceedings, sharing the key of Eb with the bass line for "St. Jerome," a vivacious ode to the man who translated the Bible into Latin. This angular homage spotlights Stillman and Seabrook's unique chemistry in a quixotic series of lyrical exchanges, buttressed by an elastic rhythm section.
The varied, but sonically cohesive program ranges from the title track's brooding electro-acoustic tone poetry to "Valentinus," a mercurial swinger dedicated to the titular second century gnostic theologian, featuring Stillman's ethereal alto and Seabrook's otherworldly fretwork. There are eclectic tributes to authors Howard Zinn ("A People's History"), Ian Frazier ("Family"), and Edward Bulwer Lytton ("Bulwer Lytton") that veer from Beefheartian bluster to balladic beauty, transposing familial themes into multihued aural panoramas. The latter number borrows tuneful guitar chords from The Who's "Tommy," drawing aesthetic parallels to the adolescent awakenings portrayed in Charles Dickens' literatureedited by Lytton.
Sperrazza and company tackle big themes here: family, community, rites of passage. Emboldened by their commitment to Sperrazza's ideals, the band (and post-production crew) work with a unity of purpose that makes this release especially compelling. Cinematic, introspective, irreverent, and leavened by droll humor, Hide Ye Idols
is Sperrazza's strongest effort as a bandleader to date.