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Chicago is indeed a city of big shoulders. Great architecture, huge pizza, and musicians with heavyweight sound. Think of Buddy Guy, Gene Ammons, Lester Bowie, and Fred Anderson to name just a few. Pretension has never been an ingredient of their music.
When four of Chicago's sons got together to form a band called The Engines, you get the idea that power will not be lacking. The members of the quartet all have been associates of Ken Vandermark's bands. Saxophonist Dave Rempis is Ken's second in command in Vandermark 5, and also a member of the Territory Band. Trombonist Jeb Bishop is also a member of the Territory Band and a former member of V5. Drummer Tim Daisy is the drummer for V5 and Sound In Action Trio. Likewise, bassist Nate McBride can be heard in Vandermark's Tripleplay, Spaceways, Inc., and FME bands.
All four players have distinguished themselves outside the realm of Vandermark as leaders and composers. This collaboration yields nearly equal contribution by all and some heady playing. The disc kicks off with Nate McBride's stop/stop piece "Riser. It allows for the two-horn attack of Rempis/Bishop to sing, then twist themselves around each other's solos. Jeb Bishop has always played his trombone like he applied himself to electric guitar. Sometimes he will blend, other times shred.
The quartet follows with the large marching track "Jet Lag, with McBride playing a bit of weighty electric bass feedback to the rapid fire soloing of Rempis and Daisy. But then things stop. And there's Bishop, playing a muted growl over the continual march. The track turns itself with McBride walking some electric bass until the acoustic drums signal the end of the affair.
Like other tracks heard here, Daisy's composition "Careful starts out as one thing but ends as another. The breathy free opening, with its rustling 'no dancing please' freedom, gives way to some inspired interplay. The four start in seemingly separate directions only to agree on an ending.
They opt for a bit of monster rock on the track "Mash Tun, with Bishop and Rempis playing a unison horn line that could have come out of a V5 session, but with McBride's electric bass and Daisy playing something from a punk surf album. "Backend Cover delivers a nice bit of bebop after some clever whispered overblowing.
Influences from rock to free jazz and small big bands make up this four-way collaboration of very talented musicians. Well worth your listen and admiration.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.