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Free Range Rat: Nut Club

Florence Wetzel By

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Nut Club is chock-full of interesting songs, demonstrating the originality of the group known as Free Range Rat, as well as its intelligence and warmth. The band is composed of uniformly strong players: John Carlson (trumpet and flugelhorn), Eric Hipp (tenor sax), Shawn McGloin (bass), and George Schuller (drums and percussion), here with special guest Douglas Yates (clarinets). Playing what they call "cosmosonic jazz, the musicians give the listener plenty to chew on and much to enjoy.

These ten songs are an interesting mix, mostly original tunes but also compositions by James Blood Ulmer, Sun Ra and Bob Marley. What also makes the recording rich is the variety of combinations formed by the musicians; there are many places where different musicians drop out and allow for duets and trios, and not all songs feature all the musicians.

Take, for instance "Below Canal, a short song featuring tenor, bass and clarinet: it's a moody, atmospheric piece that evokes the 4 am feeling from this part of town. The musicians all stay in the lower register, creating a tune that's dark and riveting. "Horn Trio #2 is another short piece, a minimalist dance of shifting shapes and colors. "Hipp Hopp is a funky tune with tenor, bass and drums; all the players shine, particularly Hipp, who has a great time dissolving and deconstructing the melody.

Other notable songs feature the entire band. "Nut Club has a delightfully off-kilter melody, and it's a pleasure to hear the members of the front line playing off each other. Marley's "So Much Trouble in the World is a genuine tour de force, made its own by the group, creating a beautifully emotive work that contains disciplined interplay between the horns. Altogether Nut Club is another exemplary offering from one of contemporary jazz's strongest groups.


Track Listing: Nut Club; Non-Believer suite - Part 1, Part 2; Below Canal; Extension; Horn Trio #2; Hipp-Hopp; So Much Trouble in the World; The Satellites Are Spinning; Bottom Feeders.

Personnel: Eric Hipp: tenor saxophone; John Carlson: trumpet, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn (except 4,7); Shawn McGloin: bass (except 6); George Schuller: drums, bells and rattly kinds of things (except 4,6); Douglas Yates: clarinet, bass clarinet (except 7).

Title: Nut Club | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records


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