When a band, or at least the defining inspiration for it, lasts fourteen years, you know that something is working. Guitarist Trey Wright Where I'm Calling From(Namaste Records, 2007) nominally leads the Squat collective, and this eponymous album is the band's tenth since 1999.
Wildly popular in the Athens, Georgia area, Squat has won the Flagpole Athens Music "best jazz band" award five times since 1999. The reason for this is crystal clear in this release. Taking eclecticism to new heights, Squat combines the feel of a party band, a dance band and a serious improvising jazz band, mixed with high spirits and palpable joy in music making.
These guys can play and take it very seriously, but with tongue firmly in cheek, as styles are mashed together and labels obliterated. Wright and multi-instrumentalist Tommy Somerville who plays keyboards and tenor saxophone, hold down the front line, while bassist Carl Lindberg and drummer Darren Stanley make up the very sharp rhythm section of this tight group.
Knowing no stylistic boundaries, the band has put together an album that references bossa nova, blues, samba, gospel, sensitive ballads, New Orleans second line and quite a bit of killer straight ahead jazz.
While jazz purists might turn up their nose at Squat's obvious efforts at winning hearts and minds through mixing the popular with the esoteric, the more open listener will recognize the deep musicianship just beneath the surface.
Their high spirits and the fact that they truly enjoy what they are doing creates an infectious attraction and immediately brings the listener to their side. The fact that their music is completely unpredictable only adds to the enjoyment.
Squat captures a band that creates and feeds off the energy of a live crowd, and this listener, short of seeing them live, would most welcome a live recording.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.