Bassist Moppa Elliott
is best known as the leader of the surrealistic jazz group, Mostly Other People Do The Killing, but his musical universe, encompassing work with symphony orchestras and new music ensembles, stretches much farther than that band's frantic music. This is reflected in this 2 CD set of Elliott leading three different types of groups, a jazz band, a rock band and a dance band.
All three ensembles continue Elliott's off-center sensibilities, but in different ways. The jazz band, Advancing on a Wild Pitch, is more straightforward than MOPDTK but just as entertaining. It works in recognizable jazz forms and has the earthy sensibilities of Charles Mingus
as a pronounced influence. The rhythm section of Elliott, pianist Danny Fox
, and drummer Christian Coleman
lay down a bouncing bluesy groove on "Baden," an early jazz two-step on "St. Mary's Proctor" and a swooning tango on "Herminie." Then these are invaded by trombonist Sam Kulik
and baritone saxophonist Charles Evans
, strutting and rolling with the sassiness of Mingus' horn players on "Fables Of Faubus" and "Jelly Roll." "Oreland"'s New Orleans funk shuffle and "Can't Tell Shipp From Shohola's" slow and easy gospel march further show how well this band can maintain a solid, swinging mood with a straight face.
Unspeakable Garbage is Elliott's rock band. They do instrumentals that mesh surf music, big beat 80s' pop, and heavy guitar. Taken one at a time, the tracks are fun and energetic but listened to as a whole, their loud, high-energy mash-ups of old Ventures, Ramones and Modern Lovers riffs with glossy 80's style production, get repetitious. Still there is the fun of hearing Jon Irabagon
consistently blowing his lungs out on tenor. He sometimes sounds as much like Albert Ayler
as Clarence Clemons. He also gets into a nice bit of call and response with guitarist Nick Millevoi
Things get really crazy with the nine-piece dance band, Acceleration Due To Gravity. Elliott's concept of a dance band is based on the hip hop notion of riffs that are embellished and tweaked with every repetition. The result is a shape-shifting cacophony that throws out echoes of Frank Zappa
, Willem Breuker
and King Crimson
. "Waddle" is a crazy quilt of lurching beats, hysterical piano and deliriously moaning saxophone. "Geiger" is out of the Zappa playbook with baritone player Kyle Saulnier
warbling over a group melody that shifts between a moderate cruising tempo and rock 'n' roll triplets before Dave Taylor
's brash trombone and Ava Mendoza
's cutting guitar supplant him. "Energy" is the closest thing to the madcap MOPDTK style, a string of whinnying solo turns by the entire band over a slap-happy approximation of a Dixieland beat. "Sparks" is a lumbering prog rock stomp that spotlights Nate Wooley
's trumpet screams and Mendoza's ringing, serpentine lines.
On top of all this, they cover Kanye West. The band's version of West's "Power" embellishes the paranoiac tension of the original with hysterical alto by Matt Nelson
and crazed trumpet by Woolley before switching into the middle section of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man," which was sampled in the West recording. "Bangor" finishes the set with Saulnier, pianist George Burton
and tenor player Bryan Murray
all flailing happily over a mechanical and intentionally clumsy dance beat.
This is a fun excursion through Moppa Elliott's extended musical world. Advancing on a Wild Pitch's sly jazz subversions, Unspeakable Garbage's tireless big beat stomps and Acceleration Due To Gravity's prog-dance madness are all worthwhile and Elliott collaborators like Irabagon, Wooley and Mendova, are in top form. It's all a bit overwhelming heard in one sitting but there is a lot of worthwhile music to absorb here.
CD 1: Oreland; Herminie; St. Mary's Proctor; Baden; Can't Tell Shipp from Shohola; Slab; Rocks, MD;
Hill; Minersville. CD 2: Drumore; Quarryville; Chrome; Bethlehem; Big Rock; Waddle; Geiger; Sparks; Energy;
Advancing On a Wild Pitch: Moppa Elliott: bass; Sam Kulik: trombone; Charles Evans: baritone saxophone;
Danny Fox: piano; Christian Coleman:
drums (CD 1: 1-6). Unspeakable Garbage: Jon Irbagon: tenor saxophone; Nick Millevoi: guitar; Ron Stabinsky:
piano; Moppa Elliott: bass; Daniel James Monaghan:
drums (CD 1: 7 - CD 2: 5). Accelearation Due To Gravity: Nate Wooley: trumpet; Dave Taylor: trombone; Matt
Nelson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bryan
Murray: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, balto!; Kyle Saulnier: baritone saxophone; Ava Mendoza: guitar;
George Burton: piano; Moppa Elliott: bass; Mike Pride: drums CD 2: 6-11).