Released this year, “Screwdriver” was recorded between 1991 and 1993 by Walter Horn, (kbrds, misc. instruments) Gary Kendig (drums, trumpet, misc. instruments) and Hugh Dickey (guitar, clarinet, vocals, misc. instruments). Three amigos with seemingly distorted views of mankind as portrayed via their esoteric and at times, outlandish compositions. The opening track “Chainsaw at Sousa’s Funeral” features an onslaught of distorted guitars, on the fly rhythms, backwash electronic treatments and by design, corny 1960’s electronic keyboard sounds and quotations. Comparisons? .... Images of King Crimson’s Robert Fripp collaborating with New York City Downtown keyboard whiz Anthony Coleman come to mind or perhaps an impromptu jam session between guitarist/composer Fred Frith and the late Sun Ra? Clocking in at 15 minutes, many of the passages and motifs seem to self-destruct, complete with out-of-control clarinet and some accordion thrown in for tonal color. Don’t let your guard down because the next track, “Containment Apron” features raggedy vocals that purposely state “I am wearing an apron, and I’m on teenage cost containment”. Drums and electronic keyboards run amok yet guitarist Hugh Dickey can tear it up in true progressive rock fashion. On “Hurricane Elroy” it’s balls to the walls as this piece takes on a free-jazz feel. Guest artist Eric Hipp lends a helping hand on Tenor Sax as the boys proceed on a swift and frenetic pace featuring some impressive drumming by Gary Kendig. “Ambulance and Gas Provided by Mutilation Bros,. Inc” is a turbo-charged burner, which may relate to fans of King Crimson. Here, guitarist Dickey emulates an ambulance siren with his guitar. The closer, “Screwdriver” features a wall of distorted sound, fierce adept guitar work by Dickey and Bill Bruford style back-beat pounding from drummer Gary Kendig. This track could have been an out-take from King Crimson’s 1970’s classic, “Red”; however, these chaps do carve out a unique identity for themselves which leans toward a much freer approach than one would normally witness in progressive rock circles.
“Screwdriver” is complex and for the most part difficult to characterize save for the occasional comparisons to King Crimson and/or Sun Ra; however, if you yearn for something that lies within the fringes of free-jazz and extreme progressive rock than this recording has quite a bit to offer. “Screwdriver” demands your undivided attention and is not by any means casual listening. Borrowing from the British comedy troupe Monty Python: ............”And now, for something completely different”... or something to that effect. Recommended!
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.