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Gypsy Schaeffer: Portamental

Dan McClenaghan By

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The Gypsy Schaeffer of New Orleans fame was a bordello where, of course, music could be heard, including the live and in-person sounds of jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton, among others. The Gypsy Schaeffer of Boston is a pianoless quartet featuring trombonist Joel Yennior (of Either/Orchestra fame), saxophonist Andy Voelker, bassist Jef Charland and drummer Chris Punis.

Lineups without a chording instrument—eg. piano or guitar—allow groups more freedom, often making for a more elastic and freewheeling sound. On Portamental, Gypsy Schaeffer makes the most of the freedom, but still remains melodically engaging.

When you mention "pianoless quartet," the two seminal ensembles that most readily come to mind are baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's groups with trumpeter Chet Baker; and Ornette's early groups with trumpeter Don Cherry. Gypsy Schaeffer dances back and forth on the borderline on that mainstream-Mulligan/freedom-Coleman spectrum, leaning in Mulligan's direction, with definite forays into Coleman territory. This recording varies from tune to tune, but to the cool, fluid Mulligan flow trades off with more frenetic and out-there interludes.

Freshness and spontaneity reign on Portamental. The tunes, all originals, find each band member taking up the pen, and the disc was recorded in one day last June. The music these four players made that day has an off-the-cuff, good-times feeling, with infusions of intensity—I note, as I listen to the Chris Punis-penned "Ugly Hand," with saxophonist Voelker burning.

While the Mulligan and Coleman bands provide useful reference points, Gypsy Schaeffer really has an original approach—a distinctive, modern-leaning sound all its own.

Track Listing: Under Construction; Mummer's Day; Faces in the Sand; Time Management; Sleep; Ponus Ridge; 01; Schemin'; Ugly Hand; Portamental.

Personnel: Andy Voelker: saxophones; Joel Yennior: trombone; Jef Charland: bass; Chris Punis: drums.

Title: Portamental | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Self Produced

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