From Minneapolis, the city that gave us The Bad Plus, here is another trio with a distinctive take on mixing jazz and rock. However Hanging Hearts serve up a sound that takes some of the jazz-rock ideas of the Seventies and amps them up into a louder, punkier present.
The opening clash of harsh tenor sax and clanging electric piano on "Return Of Saturn" recalls the Elton Dean-Hugh Hopper era of The Soft Machine before it settles into a slower, processional mode with Chris Weller's saxophone climbing slowly over the methodical bash and clank of the keyboards and drums.
Much of the music on the CD is put together in distinct layers. Devin Drobka plays slow drum patterns on the bottom, Weller swoops and wails on the top and Cole DeGenova plays keyboards in the middle that ranges from nagging electric piano chords to amorphous synthesizer murk. Individually the tracks sound fine but listening to them as a whole, you notice they start to sound like variations on a rigid theme.
That makes the tracks that don't follow that pattern all the more welcome. On "June Bug" Drobka does big drum flourishes that help the tempo shift constantly from fast to slow and DeGenova stretches out with an electric piano solo that actually gets a bit funky. "He Had the Purest of Intentions" and "Legends" are both slow pieces with DeGenova on acoustic piano. The former has Weller floating gently above the simple ballad melody traced by his partners while "Legends" is a slow processional with more of a prog rock edge. The piano and drums increase in volume and activity as Weller blows a sad, reflective them, bringing the CD to a big, elaborate climax.
Hanging Hearts have an individual sound but on this disc it doesn't always have a lot of variation or surprise. There are too few moments where one of the players breaks away from the compositions' framework and really goes for it. Still I would be interested in seeing these guys live and hear what they sound like when they really stretch out.
1. Return of Saturn, 2. Pilsen, 3. Big Bang Anunnini, 4. Jungle Juice, 5. Creation, 6. He
Had the Purest of Intentions, 7. June Bug, 8. Legends
Chris Weller - tenor saxophone, Cole DeGenova - keyboards, Devin Drobka - drums.
Dave King - tambourine on track 2.
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