By Tim Niland
This interesting album is a suite of compositions for jazz group based on noir crime fiction, taking inspiration from the literature of Dashiell Hammett and Paul Auster among others. The band is Lisa Mezzacappa on bass, John Finkbeiner on guitar, Aaron Bennett on tenor saxophone, Jordan Glenn on drums, Tim Perkis on electronics and William Winant on vibraphone and sound effects. “Fillmore Street” has a stuttering propulsive theme with peals of saxophone and kinetic bass and drums. Vibes shade the music, and effects add to its interesting nature. A spiky guitar solo breaks out, and the choppiness of the music gathers momentum with unusual sounds adding a mysterious sheen. There is a beat the underpins “Army Street” and sets the tone for the music with its strong saxophone and burbles of electronics. The music has a distinct feel and pace to it, aided by a flinty guitar interlude which is accompanied by taut bass and drums. The return of the saxophone gives the music a jaunty sensibility, right up to its abrupt end. “Medley on the Big Knockover” bursts out with rippling energy, adding found sound to a mad percussive rush. The music has a dynamic downshift to quiet subtlety with gentle saxophone and percussion, probing guitar and bass. The music gains an abstract nature, offering many possibilities, with kaleidoscopic swirls of sound and a complex improvised section. Raw saxophone lurches forth, amidst a percussive cacophony that has a thrilling rush as it barrels forward, creating a very exciting performance. A tactile groove of drums, vibes and sounds is at the center of “A Bird in the Hand” and the saxophone weaves it’s sound through this texture, slowly and patiently. There is added film dialogue, presumably from The Maltase Falcon, with a forlorn musical backdrop framing those lines. The mysterious nature of the music unfolds slowly, never tipping its hand as to a possible resolution. “Ghosts (Black, White and then Blue) adds sound effects to a haunted musicscape, as typewriters clank and footsteps clop against the cinematic musical background. The band fully engages with the music nearly halfway through the piece, with saxophone and percussion fleshing out the sound amidst bursts of guitar. The band begins to flex its muscles and the music grows powerful and ominous. The drift back to near silence is jarring, with the sounds returning to the spare framework, leading to its conclusion. The album is concluded by “Babel” with some muted film dialogue added to a medium tempo backdrop of music making for an unnerving combination. The music picks up and takes off on its own with electronics adding an edge to the proceedings, and a slow deep rhythm, with raw saxophone developing a grinding solo, building to a powerful collective improvisation to end the album.