18

Brass Mask: Spy Boy

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Brass Mask: Spy Boy The UK based octet Brass Mask was conceived in 2012 by reedsman Tom Challenger. Challenger, who very recently released the unique Wedding Music duo recording with Kit Downes (Loop Records, 2013), has plied his trade with the likes of Django Bates and many of the young improvisers that make up the progressive Loop Collective. On Spy Boy, he has assembled a cutting edge group whose interplay makes for a mesmerizing blend of compositions influenced as much by New Orleans as by the avant-garde.

"Onnellinen" opens at a loping pace before the intensifying horns ratchet up the energy level. Here—as in other pieces—the influence of the fabled Mardi Gras Indians is evident. While Brass Mask embraces the historical gumbo of New Orleans street music, they bring more to these pieces than the genre implies. The group frequently spikes compositions such as "Francis P" and the gospel-tinged "Indian Red" with unexpected constructs and more abstract voicing. Theon Cross's tuba fills the traditional bass role and with drummer John Blease's razor sharp pacing keep the sound persuasive, clean and contemporary.

Brass Mask's alter ego is decidedly edgier with Challenger's compositions influenced by Henry Threadgill's Just The Facts and Pass The Bucket (About Time, 1983). The eclectic nature Threadgill's classic informs Brass Mask's bridging of genres and generations of jazz. This is nowhere more evident than in "I Thank You Jesus," a combination of ragtime and dirty blues featuring some emotionally charged improvisations that approximate both the mournful keening and the celebratory rebirth of a New Orleans funeral march. In a different vein, "Wizards" has a cinematic feel with dark atmospherics punctuated with horn blasts.

The members of this octet concurrently spread themselves across a half-dozen other groups and that doesn't bode well for the longevity of Brass Mask as a musical entity. However— individually or collectively—this ensemble makes mutually adaptable the transitory and the enduring aspects of interpreting music. The high-spirited compositions are played with an engaging mix of unperturbed patience and energetic surges. Brass Mask has a meandering big sound full of group and individual improvisations and Spy Boy delivers a debut that begs for a sequel.


Track Listing: Onnellinen; Shallow Water; I Thank You Jesus; Nighty Night; Francis P; Indian Red; Rain Rain Rain; Meniscus; Wizards; Israfil; Indians; Don't Stand Up; Zubr Dubr.

Personnel: Tom Challenger: saxophone, clarinet; George Crowley: saxophone, clarinet; Dan Nicholls: bass clarinet, saxophone; Rory Simmons: trumpet; Alex Bonney: trumpet; Nathaniel Cross: trombone; Theon Cross: tuba; John Blease: drums, percussion.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Babel Label


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Live In Brooklyn" CD/LP/Track Review Live In Brooklyn
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "Dreaming With Eyes Wide Awake" CD/LP/Track Review Dreaming With Eyes Wide Awake
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 5, 2016
Read "Clockwork" CD/LP/Track Review Clockwork
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 13, 2016
Read "December Songs" CD/LP/Track Review December Songs
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "Hearts & Minds" CD/LP/Track Review Hearts & Minds
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 22, 2016
Read "Lovers" CD/LP/Track Review Lovers
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!