Fight the Big Bull – Dying Will Be Easy (CF 108)
Fight the Big Bull’s debut record begins darkly, with a fear brooding in the growl of a distorted trombone, unsettling bass and haunting shakers. It ends in a similar, yet tweaked tone, with an epic chorus making way for one last statement of defeat (or is it victory?). Amidst the rest of the work emerges a big band heavy on the slop—like jazz found in the back woods, blues from dirt road nomads and hymns from the swamps of the bayou. But the band executes precisely from the ink on the score, as if the sounds were directly out of guitarist and bandleader Matt White’s mind.
His creations are arranged for the nonet—an array of horns, bass, drums and percussion which are often interchangeable terms—and a subtly placed, often absent guitar. Within the fertile harmonies and heart-wrenching melodies lie plenty of holes to fill for the improvisationally gifted nine.
“In Jarama Valley” has the soul of a blues with grit. As instruments foreshadow the impending onslaught, a free-for-all soon clicks into the eye of the storm when saxophonist J.C. Kuhl recites newly felt urges to a captive rhythm section. As the orchestration grows with new parts and canonly echoes, the instruments fall apart into a vehement hurricane. White’s guitar stands alone before others join to lament.
Drummer Pinson Chanselle and percussionist Brian Jones leave their marks on found metals and skins on “Grizzly Bear,” in a short battle scene. Bassist Cameron Ralston joins to reap the rewards of the victor, playing the claves and other percussion. After a quick recapitulation of the theme, trombonist Bryan Hooten rips into the 8-bar blues with undying intensity.
“November 25th” acts as an anthem to what could be considered a well-conceptualized album. Spanish flavor is abundant in a flamenco rumba-esque trumpet solo from Bob Miller, backed by handclaps and bass. Much of the music on the album lends itself to Spanish semblance, and images of conquistadors and toreros are easily evoked from the group’s music.
Originally packaged independently by the band as an EP, Dying Will Be Easy is short, but not regrettably short. The four dramatic pieces give significant room for the musicians to stretch out, which they seize with a vigor that is sure to slay any beast.