Reptet: Danger Notes
Chicken or Beef? (Monktail Records MCMC8)
John Ewing (drums, percussion),
Clinton Fearon (vocals), Samantha Boshnack (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nelson Bell (trombone, tuba), Izaak Mills, Christopher Credit (reeds), Paris Hurley (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola), Lori Goldston (cello), Tim Carey (bass), Lalo Bello (percussion).
Composed by Samantha Boshnack.
Recorded: Seattle, WA, January 2008
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
What are they putting in the coffee up in Seattle? Chicken or Beef? is one of the craziest jazz albums I've ever heard. In 2006, Earshot Jazz gave the Reptet its award for "Best Outside Jazz Group," and this 2008 release is certainly "outside jazz." Half of the tunes are outside any genre I am familiar with. They are part jazz, part classical, part serious, part parody, part free jazz, part virtuosity – and wholly entertaining. Think Frank Zappa at his wackiest getting together with Stan Kenton to beat up Spike Jones. The album's first half is actually the band playing as straight ahead as you will get from this aggregation. After that, the vocals and craziness begin. The album's title tune and most unusual cut doesn’t come close to jazz, so I cannot review it here. But it's impressively bizarre stuff.
Chicken or Beef? opens with the horn-heavy, tightly played chaos of "Danger Notes." The rhythm is jam-band in nature. The solos tend to lean toward the free school. What little texture exists is reserved for the bassist and other string players. But no sooner have I written those words than the band is off on another exploration, and the open spaces are gone. The tune's midsection is more thoughtful. It soon gives way to a heavily syncopated…and then…next… I give up! There are too many stylistic changes to keep track of. But, whoa! It ends just like that. Cool.
Like the other first-half tunes, "Danger Notes" is a well-played trick to totally unprepare you for the lovable nonsense that will be slapping you across the face in a few minutes. I doubt that even my warning will soften the blow. Need a little wakeup in life? Put this disc in your player.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky
Tags: 2000s jazz