Mitch Bordenthe leading light behind New York's aptly-named Smalls jazz clubhas a pretty cool policy: On weekend nights before the main show begins, he gives stage time to bands that he believes deserve more exposure. Borden also personally works the sidewalk outside the West 10th Street establishment, urging passersby to come in and give these groups a listen. One band that's been given the extra time is the Ned Goold Quartet. Borden has an obvious affection for the tenor saxophonist's approach to jazz, as evidenced by the Smalls Records release of March of the Malcontents. I wish I shared that affection.
Goold's line of attack is traditional at its base: Charlie Parker is a prime influence in bop-driven pieces like "Please and "Thus This. Goold's tenor spits out sheets of notes at a pace worthy of Bird's best efforts, and Goold's cohorts give him solid support throughout the disc. There's also a distinct flavor of Coleman Hawkins in the bluesy "Fending off the Host Part 1 and the Jerome Kern standard "Lovely to Look At. The problem lies with Goold's dogged insistence on following the twisting path of Thelonious Monkthat is, to apply non-traditional theories to established musical frames. This would be laudable if Goold had anything new to say, or brought a fresh perspective to Monk's argument against Western chord structures.
One satisfying moment comes during Goold's treatment of Leonard Bernstein's "Paris Waltz, when he plays a waltzing 3/4 over his trio's swinging 4/4. The juxtaposition is interesting, even satisfying in a remote kind of way. Overall, though, Goold's off-kilter, fragmented lead lines are increasingly frustrating; during the rapid-fire "Please, Goold's saxophone practically disappears in the face of the piece's high energy. Sacha Perry's faux-Monk solo noodlings don't help matters much, though his support work meshes well with the rhythm section of Charles Goold and ex-Elvin Jones sideman Neal Caine.
The key to March of the Malcontents may be found in the disc's title. Its general tone is vaguely reminiscent of punk rock; the Ned Goold Quartet seems to be thumbing their noses at the mainstream by using its accepted framework to broadcast a dark, avant-garde musical manifesto until the listener either runs in fright or joins the fight. Pushing the boundaries is how this genre keeps growing and changing, but this just seems like rebellion for rebellion's sake. Again, if Goold was showing us a new direction to take, the trip might be worth it. As it stands, the thing to do is just walk on by.
Track Listing: Boss Borden; Paris Waltz; Gooooold; Feeding Off The Host Part 1; I Never Knew; Lovely to Look At; March of the Malcontents; Please; Make Believe; Sour and Ugly; What Is This Thing Called Love; Thus This.
Personnel: Ned Goold: tenor saxophone; Sacha Perry: piano; Neal Caine: bass; Charles Goold: drums.