The expanded, septet version of Mostly Other People Do the Killing takes on more pre-bebop era jazz. The previous septet outing Red Hot (Hot Cup, 2013) had focused on jazz and blues recordings of the 1920s -30s; this one adds the music of the swing era to the mix. One of the defining changes in the swing era was the banjo giving way to guitar in the rhythm sectionwith banjoist Brandon Seabrook in the band, the earlier sound is maintained, or at the least is anomalous. The parallels between the two albums is illustrated visually by the cover photos, which are virtually identical but for the substitution of trumpeter Steve Bernstein for original trumpeter Peter Evans.
While the tracks are too brief to allow for extended solos, the arrangements still find room for individual band members to shine. "Bloomsburg (For James Joyce)" features a round of horn solos, each with wah wah mutes and other vocal soundslike a literal group conversation. "Kilgore (For Kurt Vonnegut)" has a quiet breakdown, again with nontraditional horn sounds, which leads into a manic unaccompanied solo from pianist Ron Stabinsky. He opens the following "Mason & Dixon (For Thomas Pynchon)" with another unaccompanied solo, this time more measured. The tune also includes a banjo solo that sounds a lot like tuning, and is that a quote from Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"?
Banjoist Seabrook is also credited with electronicssurely a unique combinationwhich provide anomalous accents to "Honey Hole." "Meridian (For Cormac McCarthy)" shows the group in a gently swinging 12/8 groove, playing it relatively straight. Closer "Five (Corners, Points, Forks)" is an arranging experiment. In an effort to imitate the lo-fi sound of 78 rpm records everyone stays in the treble register for the first part of the tune. The introduction of bass register is dramatic, before it dissolves back into treble at the end.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing delights in upsetting expectations. The return to a pre-bebop format was unpredictable, but as usual the group manages to stay true to the chosen style for the album, while also introducing avant-garde jazz elements. Hard to recommend this to traditional jazz fansalthough they would probably be pleasantly surprisedbut adventurous jazz fans of all sorts should feel welcome.
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).
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.
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