Thursday, January 24, 2013

Live and More Alive

Thanks to a good friend, I am going to The Bushnell in Hartford this Saturday (1/26) to see and hear the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the ensemble led by the inimitable and often controversial trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis. Now in its 25th year(!), the LCJO has performed in venues around the world as well as taken the time to teach young people the joy of American jazz.

Having heard the band on CD and watched them on DVD, I look forward to hear the likes of saxophonists Ted Nash, Victor Goines, Sherman Irby and Joe Temperley (the Baron of the baritone saxophone), trumpeters Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printup and Ryan Kisor, trombonists Elliot Mason and Chris Crenshaw, bassist Carlos Henriquez, pianist Dan Nimmer and drummer Ali Jackson (there are others but one can never be sure of the complete lineup due to prior commitments.)  And, of course, Mr. Marsalis is there (I believe he is the 4th chair in the trumpet section) to introduce the program and smooth the audience's way into the music.  Not sure just what the program will be but I am sure of this - the music will swing and swing hard!

For ticket information, go to

Hold onto your hats, tie down your speakers, and secure the exits, the new CD from Mostly Other People Do The Killing, "Slippery Rock" (Hot Cup Records), has been released.  MOPDTK has been in existence since 2003 and this is the quartet's 5 CD.  Organized by bassist and composer Moppa Elliott, the band features Peter Evans (trumpets), Jon Irabagon (saxophones, flute) and Kevin Shea (drums, percussion).

A glance at the liner notes, penned by the venerable Leonard Featherweight, and one is led to believe that "Slippery Rock" is dedicated to reliving the days of "smooth jazz" and its comfortable rhythms. The opening seconds of the opening cut, "Hearts Content", makes mincemeat of the liner notes.  While there are some quiet moments and straight-ahead beats, this music goes directly for the jugular.  Drummer Shea is the jazz version of Keith Moon, always pushing, moving forward, goosing the soloists while Elliot holds the bottom.  As long-time listeners know, the band has a wicked sense of humor - during the solo section on the first track, Irabagon and Evans play the opening strains of "Dueling Banjos (best known from its inclusion in the 1972 movie "Deliverance") before branching off into other places.  The soulful opening chorus of "Can't Tell Shipp From Shinola" is quite musical before Shea pushes it into more "outre" territory.  There's a touch of "dub music" in the beginning of "Dexter, Wayne, and Mobley" - Evans "smears", "buzzes" and moans while Irabagon plays the handsome melody line.  Meanwhile "Yo, Ye, Yough" drives with an intensity that shakes the room.  The trumpeter shows the influences of Lester Bowie and Freddie Hubbard as he blazes through his solo (great counterpoint from bassist Elliot) while the saxophonist blows hard and long over the rampaging Shea.  Irabagon moves to sopranino sax and Evans to piccolo trumpet for "President Polk", a slower track but not what one might consider a traditional ballad.  This has the feeling, at times, of the Charles Mingus Quartet with Eric Dolphy and Ted Curson, just a bit farther "out." The group's interactions on the closing track, "Is Granny Spry?" is mighty impressive - while Evans' solo runs wild, the rhythm section rocks and rolls beneath him.  Then, as Irabagon "swings" and "wails" through his spot, the bassist and drummer kick it up even higher and harder.

"Slippery Rock" is more fascinating music from a most interesting band.  As a unit (as well as on their individual projects), they are fearless, fun, a bit maddening but never dull.  Not for the typical Kenny G. fan, MOPDTK makes music that is alive and, well, thanks to the tireless Kevin Shea, absolutely kicking.  For more information, go to

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