Home » Jazz Articles » Joy On Fire: Unknown Cities


Album Review

Joy On Fire: Unknown Cities


Sign in to view read count
Joy On Fire: Unknown Cities
In creating his Dream City paintings, the Baltimore-based artist Minás Konsolas aspired to a mountain village ideal, an entity of intimacy and community. Using a detail from these works as the cover for their Unknown Cities album, the power trio Joy On Fire again shows how its art intersects with outsider culture. There is something of the DIY aesthetic about Joy On Fire, a band whose music offers a narrative of community with its mix of noise and avant-garde jazz. Being signed to Maryland indie Procrastination Records helps too, a micro-label which curiously supports the Vulture Conservation Foundation.

Unknown Cities continues a prolific run for the band and opens with the tigerish "Kung Fu Tea Party." It sets up their familiar template of buzz-saw guitars and punk-encrusted percussion, with saxophonist Anna Meadors soaring as ever to giddy heights. She conjures an accordion-like squeeze of notes at one point, as the fusion floodgates get swept open. Vast and volatile in scope, Meadors maintains her torrent of notes and flow of ideas whether improvising or sticking to a melodic script. She ranges here from the fluttering classical intro of "China, North Carolina" to rising roar-screams on "The Complete Book Pt 4," a track replete with filthy bass lines from John Paul Carillo.

Such dexterity and discordance is the Joy On Fire trademark, though some of their more studious experimentation is absent this time. This latest offering has the vibe of pieces made for touring as a three-piece, not for elaborate collaborations. Groove-heavy backbeats are mostly the bedrock, though the slow burning title track uses a drum machine and synth bass. It is also one of two numbers to feature the wide-eyed Beat poetry of narrator Dan Gutstein.

Elsewhere, we get a hymnlike chorus of handclaps and spectacular high notes on "Red Wave," while "CNC Pt 2" finds drummer Christopher Olsen going into an MC5-like blistering blowout. With its eruptive stream of energy, Unknown Cities is another eye- popping ride on the wild side.

Track Listing

Kung Fu Tea Party; China, North Carolina; CNC Pt 2; The Complete Book pt4; In Speaking Like Thunder; Red Wave; Unknown City.


Anna Meadors: saxophone; John Paul Carillo: bass; Christopher Olsen: drums; Dan Gutstein: voice / vocals.

Album information

Title: Unknown Cities | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Procrastination Records

Post a comment about this album

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.



Beyond Orbits
Miho Hazama's M_Unit
Paul Dietrich
Dear Zbigniew
Greg Byers


Double Portrait
Giuseppe Millaci and the Vogue Trio
Afro Futuristic Dreams
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids
Pharoah (Box Set)
Pharoah Sanders
Dynamic Maximum Tension
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

On the record

Vibes on a Breath
Ted Piltzecker
Jonathan Karrant
Brazilian Match
Luiz Millan
Double Portrait
Giuseppe Millaci and the Vogue Trio

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.