Well Behaved Fish opens with Ornette Coleman's "Dancing in Your Head," an upbeat, obstreporous, hard-driving electro-orchestral performance, and a fitting introduction to a plugged-in set of sounds reminscent of some of Miles Davis' mid to late-'70s work. But the Grismore/Scea Group, co-led by guitarist Steve Grismore and multi-reedist Paul Scea, gives the sound more focus and structure than Davis' defiantly amorphous approach.
Like Miles' much maligned On the Corner (Columbia, '72), a set that seems to be getting a critical upgrade of late, the individual instruments on Well Behaved Fish are at times difficult to identify. Wind controller, guitar synth, and amped-up saxophones mingle together, though Scea's flute drifts distinctly at times, wailing into the electro-smear on "Spinach Dip."
"Baghdad" reins in the pace, with floating Middle East string instrument sounds and percussion behind Brent Sandy's tart trumpet. "Crush" showcases a beefy trio rhythmGrismore's intensely blurry guitar lines, Anthony Cox's beefy, seismic bass, and Marc Gratama's heavy rock-like drum work. The closer, "Good God," sounds funkily mainstream, with Grismore wah-wahing behind Scea's searing hot tenor sax solo.
Both leaders teach, Grismore at Augustana College and the University of Iowa, Scea at West Virginia Universitytwo geographical locales that are a long way from the modern jazz meccas. With Well Behaved Fish they prove that the "location, location, location" mantra does't hold a lot of water in terms of making modern and intriguing first-rate jazz sounds.
Dancing in Your Head; Cletus N' Gugu; Bagdad; Spinach Dip; Crush; Introductions; I'm Being
Held Hostage to Your Failure; Well Behaved Fish; Pigs at the Trough; Benevolent
Steve Grismore: guitar, guitar synthesizer; Paul Scea: saxes, flute, wind controller; Brent
Sandy: trumpet; Anthony Cox: bass; Marc Gratama: drums, synth drums.
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