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Harry J. Anslinger, the United States' original Drug Czar, invented an unusual term to sum up what he considered as the moral decay caused by the collision of the jazz and drug cultures in the 1930s and 1940s: "syncopated taint."
Popular tenor sax phenom Skerikfresh off of a 2005 tour with Mike Clark's Headhuntersadopted the name for his septet, whose new album Husky further cements the leader's reputation as one of the heavy hitters of the post bop/trip-hop movement.
Recorded in Los Angeles in the span of just one day, Husky serves not as a showcase for Skerik alone, but rather as a chance for his unique tone (which at times sounds like the wicked stepchild of Dexter Gordon's) to mesh with the septet's formidable horn section. What makes this aspect of the ensemble so unique is the often evil tone of baritone player Craig Flory, whose low-register bursts supply the album with instances of atonality that cause it to transcend the genre of funk, with which Skerik is normally associated.
That shouldn't suggest, however, that the album isn't funky. On the contraryhere's plenty of funk to go around, especially on tracks that feature trombonist Steve Moore doubling on Wurlitzer, creating a sound that immediately recalls the later work of Medeski Martin and Wood. However, drummer John Wicks' fascination with incorporating various time signatures into a single song gives the listener nary a chance to settle into an individual frame of mind.
Although it was recorded in a studio, Husky emanates a simultaneously relaxed and intense improvisational feel that will only motivate the listener to seek out the group in person, as well as to undergo repeated listens in order to truly fathom the various sonic layers impossible to comprehend in just one sitting. Long live the Taint!
Track Listing: The Third Rail; Go To Hell Mr. Bush; Syncopate the Taint; Fry His Ass; Don
Personnel: Skerik: tenor saxophone; Craig Flory: baritone saxophone; Dave Carter: trumpet; Hans
Teuber: alto saxophone, flute; Steve Moore: trombone, wurlitzer; Joe Doria: Hammond B-3;
John Wicks: drums.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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