The cover of the third release by the avant-bop quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing (MOPDtK) suggests the obvious for anyone who has listened to this excellent ensemble. They reference the classic 1960 Ornette Coleman Quartet Atlantic recording, This Is Our Music
, not only by the precise, though humorous position of its members on the cover (an awareness in the greater narrative of jazz) but also in substance and spirit. The classic Coleman recording featured a rare interpretation of Gershwin's "Embraceable You," spinning its beautiful theme way beyond the articulations of the composer and Charlie Parker. Following Coleman's exemplary lead, MOPDtKcomprised of bassist Moppa Elliot, trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist Jon Irabagon (winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition,) and drummer Kevin Sheais ready to challenge current conventional concepts. These include those within the jazz genre and also cultural sourcescountry, punk, and music similar to American modern composers John Cage or European thinkers such as Jacques Attali and Roland Barthes.
As on previous MOPDtK's releases, this one is charged with amazing virtuoso performances, brilliant ideas, and a richly nuanced knowledge of music history marked by a vibrant sense of adventure and tons of humor. The flux of ideas is constant and democratic, as if no member of the quartet leads the music, as these ideas shift and transform between tempi, dynamics and genres, resulting in contrasting layers of information, often within the same composition. Also as with earlier releases, the pieces are named after the odd and unbelievable names of towns from Elliot's home state of Pennsylvania.
MOPDtK's post-modern reconstruction of jazz styles does not mock past master innovations but stresses the need and importance of playfulness in music. The compositions hop between funky boogaloo to abstract improvisation ("Drainlick"), dixieland mixed with cartoonish dynamics ("Two Boot Jacks") and updated 1960s macho post-bop a-la Coltrane, Rollins and Henderson ("Fagundus"). A mix of themes includes a "Batman" and Claude Debussy composition ("The Bats In Belfry") and greasy pop jazz ("East Orwell"). Other enjoyable tracks contain a muscular bluesy vamp ("My Delightful Blues"), an ironic construction of three rhythm changes based on Coltrane's "Giant Steps" ("Biggertown"), an attempt to encompass all blues cliches ("Effort, Patience, Diligence") and a heartfelt comic cover of Billy Joel's "Allentown."
Brilliant. This release guarantees many joyful hours, appreciating the thoughtful performances while attempting to contextualize the myriad quotes and references scattered throughout.
Personnel: Peter Evans: trumpet; Jon Irabagon: alto and tenor saxophones; Moppa Elliott: double-bass; Kevin Shea: drums.