Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Mostly Other People Do the Killing's "The Coimbra Concert"

First impression: "Oh, wow. The cover to this looks like an homage to Keith Jarrett's ECM classic The Koln Concert. That must have been a lucky shot." Then I realize that this band -- an "inside/outside" jazz outfit with an alt-rock name -- doesn't have a piano player. And the photos on the inside of the CD sleeve show all of the band members similarly slouched behind the silhouette of a grand pianner (saxophonist Jon Irabagon looks like he's falling asleep eating a salad).

Looking at their back catalog, I find artwork that doffs its lid to classic Blue Note (Art Blakey's A Night In Tunisia), Atlantic (Ornette's This Is Our Music), and Impulse (Roy Haynes' Out of the Afternoon) album covers, and I begin to understand that these conservatory-trained, award-winning jazzbos wouldn't dream of ejecting a listener from a concert for coughing or throat-clearing. There's far too much humor and, dare I say, _fun_ in their music for that. If this seems antithetical to a jazz record released in 2011, perhaps it's indicative of how badly a group like MOPDtK, which doesn't take itself too damned seriously, could be _just what the doctor ordered_ for the music as it eases into the 21st century's second decade.

Which is not to imply that they're nothing but clowns and goofballs. On the contrary, these guys have chops to spare, and a practical knowledge of jazz's historical arc that's extensive enough for them to reference everything from New Orleans group improvisation to bebop (see below) to Ornette to the AACM (dig Irabagon and trumpeter Peter Evans' unaccompanied extemporizations), not to mention Raymond Scott and Spike Jones. While the band is a compositional vehicle for bassist Moppa Elliott, their ebullient, freewheeling approach often interpolates other material into a performance; familiar themes like Dizzy's aforementioned "A Night In Tunisia" (performed at the speed of sound!), Miles' '47 "Milestones," and Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train" occasionally rear their, um, heads. ("In fact," claim the liner notes, "every note and sound on this recording is a reference to some other recording or performance, real or imaginary." Hmmm.)

This live-recorded double CD, their first for Portuguese li'l-indie-that-could Clean Feed, makes a strong case for the continuing vitality of acoustic jazz. More to the point, if you're a fan of the music, it'll put a smile on your face.


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