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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow

Karl Ackermann By

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Blowing up Mostly Other People Do the Killing from its core quartet to a septet may seem like an invitation to dance on the musical third rail. The group that has always straddled the broad and fuzzy line between tradition and chaotic improvisation, has nevertheless managed that process with a mixture of sophistication, revelation and unbridled enthusiasm. Loafer's Hollow is a surprising entry to their catalog of one-dozen releases.

MOPDtK founding member (and primary composer), bassist Moppa Elliott, saxophonist Jon Irabagon and drummer Kevin Shea were three-quarters of the original quartet along with the trumpeter Peter Evans who left after Blue (Hot Cup Records, 2014). That same recording introduced pianist Ron Stabinsky who became a regular group member with the Hot Cup release of Mauch Chunk (2015). Joining the formation for Loafer's Hollow are bass trombonist David Taylor (Gil Evans Band), Brandon Seabrook (Naftule's Dream) on banjo and electronics and Steven Bernstein (The Lounge Lizards) on trumpet.

What is unusual about Loafer's Hollow is that the original Elliott compositions are firmly rooted in the swing era of the 1930s-1940s, a more demarcated parameter than the bop/free improvisation/chamber jazz amalgamations that MOPDtK typically work with. That is not to say that these pieces are in any way staid or formulaic; each retains that undefinable MOPDtK stamp of idiosyncrasy.

"Hi-Nella" would be at home as the soundtrack for a Max Sennett movie despite a late song solo improvisation from Bernstein. "Honey Hole," Mason and Dixon" and "Meridian" show Elliott's remarkable ability to capture the feel of the period while "Glen Riddle" has an infectious big-band swing that culminates in some brief free-form wailing. "Kilgore" and "Five (Corners, Points, Forks)"—while not abandoning the concept—are a bit more free-wheeling in approach.

Loafer's Hollow puts a fresh spin on period music, not just by infusing it with free improvisations but by developing distinct characteristics within the piece-to-piece variations. The larger ensemble adds a fullness to the sound and Seabrook's banjo brings an occasional touch of Americana. The titles are—as per usual—names of Pennsylvania towns and five of the pieces are dedicated to authors Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace. This may be MOPDtK's most accessible album but that shouldn't be a deterrent to those who like this band on the quirkier side. There remains quirkiness to spare.

Track Listing: Hi-Nella; Honey Hole; Bloomsburg (For James Joyce); Kilgore (For Kurt Vonnegut); Mason & Dixon (For Thomas Pynchon); Meridian (For Cormac McCarthy); Glen Riddle (For David Foster Wallace); Five (Corners, Points, Forks).

Personnel: Steven Bernstein: slide trumpet, trumpet; Moppa Elliott: bass, composer; Jon Irabagon: saxophones; Brandon Seabrook: banjo, electronics; Kevin Shea: drums; Ron Stabinsky: piano; Dave Taylor: bass trombone.

Title: Loafer's Hollow | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Hot Cup Records

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