New Jazz Notes
Second combination of Jazz Notes and a Record Bulletin, this time with two releases from early 2013. Wicked Knee had an EP I’m unable to find online, which would mean purchasing a copy before hearing it if I’m that curious. Heels Over Head is good enough that I’m considering investing in that all-cover release. Peter Evans of MOPDtK has a new solo album, Zebulon, which consists of four long avant-garde pieces, so don’t take Slippery Rock! as any sort of primer.
BILLY MARTIN’S WICKED KNEE – Heels Over Head (Amulet): Drummer of Medeski, Martin, and Wood’s new quartet with Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba), and Steven Bernstein (trumpet), their name referring not only to the brass-heavy, marching band-esque ensemble but also to Martin’s insatiable thirst for danceable ragtime piano inspired by his wife’s friend’s Shake Your Wicked Knees, a comp of 1920s-40s boogie-woogie. Martin lays down flurried drumlines on “Ghumba Zumba” propelled by unisonal college football halftime horns. Singer Shelley Hirsch drops in for a New Orleans blues take on Occupy’s (in)famous stat slogan. Bernstein’s trumpet and Rojas’s tuba perfectly sandwich Fowlkes’s trombone on “Muffaletta” as Martin’s choppy delivery dices things up nicely. Head your heels to New Orleans and two-step to cakewalkin’. A MINUS
MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING – Slippery Rock! (Hot Cup): Until now bassist Moppa Elliot’s irreverent quartet parodied classic Monk and Blakey album covers, but here decide to mock an entire genre; brightly colored smooth jazz fellas like Kenny G and Chris Botti. And while bebop braggarts incessantly remind us of their ‘humor’ by pointing to every slight reference the young guns stuff into bass lines and brass licks, knowledge of the entire canon isn’t necessary to enjoy the not quite rock-‘n’-roll, certainly not smooth jazz album they’ve snuck into their oeuvre. Try pinning down drummer Kevin Shea’s time signature on frantic “Hearts Content” first time through. Keep from tapping your foot on staccato-horned and funk-inflected closer “Is Granny Spry?” And even this layman can get yucks from more obvious jokes like “Dexter, Wayne and Mobley,” where trumpeter Peter Evans runs off the rails Shorter-style (were Shorter a trumpeter) with Jon Irabagon’s soothing saxophones surrounding him before ultimately joining the fray. At last! Jazz fusion! A MINUS