Strangely enough, bandleader and bassist Moppa Elliott derived inspiration for his compositions on Slippery Rock from smooth jazz albums of the late 1970s and '80s. However, it's more like smooth jazz under siege; with resonating rhythms, scorching and wily horns choruses, the program offers subliminal detections of commercial jazz fare as the band often breaks into complex and peppery free form jaunts. MOPDtK acutely tears down most of the melodic content, only to reassemble it into fractured and largely improvised harmonic vamps. But part of the group's appeal lies within its youthful spirit and insanely hip spin on modern jazz.
"Sayre" musters an emphatic symbol of the musicians' playful ingenuity. With semblances of brawny, groove-based pop and a freewheeling gait, drummer Kevin Shea contrasts the horn players with sweeping rolls and darting accents as he seemingly disarms the underlying melodic hooks. He's a protagonist, and counters saxophonist Jon Irabagon's down and dirty solo. Customarily, MOPDtK flirts with the avant-garde spectrum during the bridge and spirals into parts unknown as well.
The quartet circles back around and redevelops the primary theme amid a tottering breakdown, with Irabagon rather bizarrely tossing in some Americana-like flute work for the coda. MOPDtK has gained a significant following for good reasons, decreeing the antithesis to modern mainstream post-kiddie bop malaise with a healing force that works like a charm.
Track Listing: Hearts Content; Can’t Tell Shipp from Shohola; Sayre; President Polk; Yo, Yeo, Yough; Dexter, Wayne and Mobley; Jersey Shore; Paul’s Journey to Opp; Is Granny Spry?.
Personnel: Peter Evans: trumpet, piccolo trumpet; Jon Irabagon: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone; Moppa Elliott: double bass; Kevin Shea: drums.