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Free Nelson Mandoomjazz is one hellacious trio led by Rebecca Sneddon on alto saxophone with bassist Colin Stewart and a bone-crunching drummer credited only as Archibald, and herewith explodes onto the global music scene with a single-disc that pairs their EPsThe Shape of Doomjazz to Come and Saxophone Giganticus.
From their base in Edinburgh (Scotland), Free Nelson Mandoomjazz proves equally versed in the heaviest of heavy metal (including and especially Black Sabbath) and the most free of free jazz (including and especially saxophonists Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman). Each EP obviously nods with a wink toward pillars of the modern jazz cannonColeman's The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959, Atlantic) and Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus (1956, Prestige)while the band's name is at least partial tribute to South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela. But other points of reference for Doomjazz/Giganticus aren't as easy to find.
Sneddon's alto seems to constantly switch between playing with and playing against the bass and drums. In several tunes, like "Into the Sky," the rhythm drops completely away to leave saxophone whispering and whistling alone in a dark sonic graveyard; in others, like "The Masque of the Red Death," alto swaps roles with bass to flow through more melodic playing churned by sharp bass improvisation. Bassist Stewart strums more reflectively to begin the not quite as vicious as it sounds "No One Fucking Posts to the UAE" before rocking its rhythm back and forth so solidly that it frees Sneddon to play wherever and however she pleases.
Doomjazz/Giganticus concludes with music written by or in honor of Domenico Scarlatti, Sonny Rollins and Black Sabbath. Stewart plays walking lines so fast they turn "K54" (inspired by Scarlatti's "Sonata K54") into a tumbling run timed by Archibald's whipcrack snare and closed in a lovely coda. "Saxophone Giganticus" repeats its blues stomp over and over until its sound seems to grow monstrously big and deep, like Pink Floyd nursing an electric blues grudge. They close with Sneddon abstractly sketching the leadoff and ultimate track from Black Sabbath's eponymous 1970 debut (Warner Bros.).
What, no "21st Century Schizoid Man"?
Jazz is sometimes criticized by fans of other musical styles for being too intellectual and not as visceral as blues or rock can be. Free Nelson Mandoomjazz shatters that criticism to pieces with rhythms that rip from deep and powerful places, and land so hard in your ears that you feel their punch in your guts.
Track Listing: Where My Soul Can Be Free; Into the Sky; The Masque of the Red Death; No One Fucking Posts to the UAE; K54; Saxophone Giganticus; Black Sabbath.
Personnel: Rebecca Sneddon: alto sax; Colin Stewart: bass; Archibald: drums.