Whirled Jazz is a band that produces music that is beyond an easy categorization. Take the title track from their recent release, Mikilteo, my mental picture was that of a reenactment of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue session substituting Paul Desmond and Roswell Rudd as a front line. But “Mikilteo” and this session is more modern than the famed 1959 session. In these times of fractured jazz divisions, much of what we hear is labeled and pigeonholed or a just an eclectic jumble. Whirled Jazz (or ‘world jazz’?) has an internal logic revealed in the language of this new millennium, that makes a coherent statement.
The band, the brainchild of reedsman Tom Bergeron, is made up of three members of the spontaneous jazz band The Tone Sharks, plus trombonist Keller Coker. Where The Tone Sharks exercise a very disciplined free jazz, the Whirled Jazz quartet opts for six very relaxed composed pieces. They play like Greg Osby’s bands without East Coast politics. Bergeron, like Osby produces clear precise lines and breathes sharp notes into his horn. The trombone of Keller Coker, who maintains the boundaries of the songs with a wide ruler, nicely complements his edge. Drummer Dave Storrs and bassist Page Hundemer, apply the accents. Hundemer opting for an electric bass, pulses this record in a very nontraditional jazz manner. While not keeping a straight ‘rock’ beat he thunders from your woofer in a language easily adapted to today’s club scene. The architecture he supplies allows Storrs the liberty to supplement the band with a multitude of rhythmic inflection. The drummer can best be compared to Joey Baron in that he rarely plays anything ‘straight,’ opting for color and textures over beats. Storrs is a master of cymbal and brushwork.
“Tadasana” can be described as a jazz version of a doo-wop blues. Its infectious beat gives way to a conversation between sax and bone that manages to sustain the nearly thirteen minute song. Coker produces some hat-over-the-bell effects against the brushwork of Storrs and the heavy vibe of Hundemer that speak of Ellington’s bands in a Weather Report context. This unique piano-less lineup edges toward a new language in jazz with smart writing, a high quotient of group interaction, yet accessible to all listeners.