The new ensemble led by Scott Neumann
and Tom Christensen
is called Spin Cycle. It could, maybe should, have been dubbed The Chameleonic Quartet. Along with the virtuosic sidemen, guitarist Pete McCann
and bassist Phil Palombi
, the ten tracks spin-off varying styles and musical modes, from blues to ballads, punk to funk.
Such catholic tastes are not unexpected from drummer Scott Neumann, who was raised on the jazz-rock fusion of Joe Zawinul
and Wayne Shorter
, then went on to tour with The Woody Herman Orchestra, Dave Liebman
, Ben Allison
, Jazz Mandolin Project, and Brother Jack McDuff
. His Neu3 Trio with Michael Blake
and Mark Helias
released the 4.5 star Blessed
(Origin, 2013). Likewise, saxophonist Tom Christensen
has performed with The Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, The Gil Evans Project, Paquito D'Rivera, Joe Lovano, and Cheap Trick.
Spinning the cycle here is like the board game Twister. Your ears may get tied in knots. Opening with the stop/start "Rainbow Shoelaces" the band releases the beast inside McCann's guitar, letting him shred the melody followed by Christensen's high-wire solo. Likewise, "Hamsters, Hamsters" mines that tight swinging blues, Palombi's finger-fast bass chasing the saxophone from beginning to end, only pausing for Neumann's propelled solo. But then, just when you've pigeonholed the band, they shift into the gentle melody of "Drift," which conjures the later work of Paul Motian
's bands. Cymbal accents highlight the pastel wash of guitar and saxophone. Spin again and you're gob smacked by faux-punk oxymoron "Smart Aleck" ("smart stupid"). Rock drumming frames the school-boy-punk of McCann's glam solo and Christensen's overblown antics. If this were a garage band, the police would have been called.
The ballad "Trust" follows, yielding another of Palombi's proprietary solos that absolutely melt into McCann and then Christensen's luscious take on the melody. In a similar vein is "Crystalline," with McCann switching to acoustic guitar and Christensen to soprano saxophone. The music is picture painting perfection. Just depends on what picture they plan to paint.
Rainbow Shoelaces; Spin Cycle; The Groove; Funky Sea; Drift; Smart Aleck; Trust;
Nevermind; Crystalline; Hamsters, Hamsters.
Tom Christensen: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Pete McCann: electric
guitar, nylon-string guitar; Phil Palombi: acoustic bass, electric bass; Scott