Setting aside the issue of genres (jazz, folk, Americana, funk, R&B, country, whatever), the question becomes: on their debut album, Ivy Hall,
does the Tennessee-based and curiously named quartet, Kolotov Mocktails, deliver the goods? And the answer has to be yes, they do. This leads to a second question: is what they are doing jazz? And here the answer is less obvious. Certainly, there are elements of jazz in the form of improvisation and rhythmic patterns, but they are sporadic and often overshadowed by what may reasonably be described as a hybridjazz of a sort, simply not the sort of jazz that lends itself to clear-cut labeling.
There are moments, as on "Acoustic Alchemy," when the music sounds like something one might encounter at a country hoedown; others, as on "Coming to an Alley Near You" or "The Fuzz," when the vibe is pure two-beat funk; and others still ("Raw Eel Sheets") when violinist George Mason
could be leading the storied Hot Club of France through its paces. Even Scotland has its say on "The Crack of Noon," a lively jig featuring Alan Walters
on the Scottish small pipes. Each of the album's ten songs was written by a member of the group, which numbers Mason on violin and guitar; Dave Easley
(pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, Weissenbsorn guitar); John Lang
(acoustic and electric bass, keyboards) and Rob McKendrick
(drums and percussion). Besides Walters, the guests are keyboardists Jason DeBord
and Matthew Sheens
(it's not clear on which tracks either one sits in).
As noted, the music on Ivy Hall
is hard to pigeonhole. Suffice to say it is part jazz, part a whole lot of other things, and that the Kolotov Mocktails perform it with verve and panache. When given the green light, Mason is quite an able soloist in the image of Stephane Grappelli
or Jean-Luc Ponty
. There are some respectable guitar solos too, but the names are unlisted. As for rhythm, McKendrick and Lang are on top of that, doing what is necessary to move things along. While fans of pure jazz may not find much of interest here, those who favor music that transcends genres while skirting the fringes of jazz (there must be an audience for that) may well find their curiosity aroused by this Ivy Hall.
Between the Ranges; Dancing on the Wall; Mr. Pants Pants; A Visit to the Zoo; Acoustic
Alchemy; Coming to an Alley Near You; The Fuzz; Raw Eel Sheets; The Crack of Noon;