Respect reviewed in Cadence Magazine

here she is:

This group’s been around since 2001, and they already have several discs to their credit- a couple CD-Rs, a mini-CD of a twenty-minute version of Sun Ra’s “Call to All Demons,” and one full-length CD, The Full Respect. They have great chops and a great sense of humor, and they seem to play just about everything. (Robert Iannopollo calls them a “Jazzswinglatinbopbalkanfreeimprov band,” but if anything that sells them short.) The Full Respect has supercharged grooves peppered Art Ensemble-style with children’s toys, game-pieces, Dave Douglasy accordion-and-trumpet, a Charlie Parker/Bill Evans mashup, pitch-perfect Ellingtonia, klezmer, a TV commercial, a mangled trumpet rag (a joke at Wynton Marsalis’ expense?). It’s a fun and mightily impressive disc, even if it’s a little too close to the post-Zorn channel-flipping aesthetic.

Respect in You, recorded at a live gig from the band’s hometown of Rochester, NY, has all its predecessor’s virtues, but it’s less of a crazyquilt. It’s still witty and intelligent music, shot through with an allusive let’s-throw-this-in-the-pot sensibility, but there’s much less of an ironic distance: they seem in the grip of this music, and convey that sense of pressure to the listener too. They do a cover of Misha Mengelberg’s “Hypochrismutreefuzz” and stitch other Mengelberg themes into the rest of the album; perhaps what they’ve learned from Misha (or from another of their heroes, Sun Ra) is how to pry Jazz apart- to make it sound layered rather than seamless, an unstable compound of elements that can each recede or approach, become sharper or fray at the edges. Their reading of Fred Anderson’s “3 on 2” is a case in point. Emerging from a nebula of radio fuzz, it homes in on a swirling Coltrane-derived groove. The band’s delivery is authentically ecstatic: it’s as thrilling an opening to an album as any I’ve heard in the past year, all fifteen minutes of it. But the performance also makes use of weaving in-and-out shifts of texture and of emphasis within the ensemble, as a way of gaining and readjusting their (and our) perspective on this kind of ecstatic intensity. (Call it “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Fred Anderson.”) Sometimes this multiperspectivism is almost schematic: “Postal (a.k.a. PB&J),” for instance, sets two kinds of blues in dialogue, a “Blues for Alice” swinger and a “Black and Tan Fantasy” funeral march. It’s a clever idea- Bird talking back to Ellington- but it’s a lot more than that, not least because right in the middle of the piece there’s a black-hole collapse, all the bright bebop virtuosity squeezed dry until it’s no more than an ominous thrumming.

There’s much more that could be said- about the superb work of the individual players (saxophonist Josh Rutner, trombonist James Hirschfield, trumpeter Eli Asher, pianist/accordionist Red Wierenga, bassist Matt Clohesy, drummer Ted Poor); about the whimsical details and quotes that take multiple listens to ferret out; about the deviously snowballing “Hypochrismutreefuzz”, or “Riot of Light,” which to these ears is not so much joyful as an exploration of how joy is expressed in music, from Salvation Army hymnody to Aylerian ecstasy to a whirlwind tour of Latin and Caribbean dance rhythms. But suffice it to say that Respect in You is one of this year’s outstanding new discs, providing more food for thought and pure enjoyment than just about anything I’ve heard lately. Check it out.

-nate dorward, cadence magazine

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