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Nathan Hook's Mobiustrip at Somethin' Jazz Club

Daniel Lehner By

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Nathan Hook's Mobiustrip
Somethin' Jazz Club
New York, NY

Tenor saxophonist Nathan Hook's Mobiustrip opened their set at Somethin Jazz Club in Midtown East, NYC with a tune called "You Probably Thought This Would Be Fun," and it was appropriate. This is not to say that Hook's music was unenjoyable or without merit (far from it, actually), but whatever expectations of dissonance and complexity a hard-worn member of the NYC jazz scene might come to expect, Hook's group tore it to shreds. The Mobiustrip songbook was muscular, ferocious, unexpected, multi-layered and unrelenting. Hook's diversely assembled cast of New York mainstay bassist Carlo Derosa, the slightly younger guitarist Travis Reuter and two members of Hook's peer group (pianist Billy Test and drummer Paolo Canterella), worked in a tandem that was controlled by the demands of the compositions, but in such a way that even the more modest liberties taken with the music resonated with a huge impact.

Like a fruit with a particularly strong husk, some of Hook's music was gruff and almost disorienting at first, but a logic started to emerge after a few iterations that made each passing melody line more attractive. "You Probably Thought This Was Going to Be Fun" had Reuter's spacey, heavily-effected guitar playing a complex line right under Hook's equally complex melody, but each passing instance allowed the precedent for each part to sink in. Some of Hook's melodies, like "20/40 Hindsight" got increasingly more urgent as it became more frenetic, allowing itself to build and grow. Hook's music played with focal points as well; unlike the commonly used bass/piano ostinato re-popularized by artists like Kurt Rosenwinkel and Aaron Parks, "Red Hawk" set up a high guitar and piano line for DeRosa to fly over. Not all of Hook's music was cloaked in sophisticated aggression, though. His closing number, "Little Demons" utilized the sort of wide-open clusters employed by artists like Vijay Iyer, complete with an underlying post-hip-hop groove to boot, of which Cantarella did not just imitate but put his own spin on.

Hook's soloing showed off that he's a tried and true proponent of the thick, muscular, heavier-than-heavyweight school of tenor saxophone. There were strong elements of M- Base participants like Mark Shim and Gary Thomas but there were bits and pieces of past big-sound players like Dexter Gordon and Jimmy Forrest to be found as well. Hook's harmonic and rhythmic concept was huge; he had the ability to fit just about any idea into whatever space he wanted to. Test's piano playing was cut from a similar cloth. He was exciting to hear in this context, given his usual propensity to be in more straight- ahead situations, and though he occasionally exposited Mulgrew Miller-like runs over tunes like "Dialogue Day," he hung with the rest of the insanity quite well, providing a voice of acoustic power amongst the heavy electricity. DeRosa and Reuter were playing right in their wheelhouse, DeRosa jumping from sinister bass pocket to dextrous runs and Reuter's guitar playing, plunged several pedals deep in effects, not only added to the concoction sonically but like Hook, piled on idea after idea of solo material almost to the breaking point. Mobiustrip is a thoroughly "modern jazz" ensemble, but it runs contrary to the idea that contemporary "under-25" jazz groups are tepid and uninspiring; Hook's group is a monster.

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