Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Mostly Other People Do The Killing – THE COIMBRA CONCERT (CF 214)
First things first: the piss-taking cover reference this time around is to Jarrett’s Köln Concert, and each member of MOPDTK is captured in ECM black and white, hilariously skewering the solo solemnity. You couldn’t imagine a musical exemplar more opposed to this group’s swagger. For their first disc away from the Hot Cup label, the quartet specializing in serious play (bassist and leader Moppa Elliott, trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist Jon Irabagon, and drummer Kevin Shea) delivers up a two-disc live helping from Coimbra. It’s nice to finally have a live document for those curious about their splice-and-dice methodology (recently articulated in a Signal to Noise feature). They’re in fine fettle throughout, with a playful sensibility that allows them – even urges them – to romp through variegated terrains, from free heat to lovingly rendered bop, swing, and pranks all mashed up into a singular sound. There are nine tracks in all, each taking off from a Moppa Elliott tune but moving from this compositional base into who knows where? The method is one of free association, collage and interpolation, where each member can pick up the thread of veto it as he sees or hears fit.
It’s a tough thing to do without sounding dilettantish or unfocused, depending on the group. But MOPDTK pulls it off gloriously (even including some uncredited work on electronics here and there). Evans and Irabagon are outrageous as ever, but it’s really the group sound – with its riotous shifts in tempo, wrench-in-the-works affinity, and keen responsiveness/playfulness – that compels. They wend their way, unpredictably and dizzyingly, between tunes in splenetic, densely packed minutes, from “Drainlick” to “Shamokin,” taking basic, often fairly simple materials (such as the sassy “Pen Argyll”) and filling them with a bestiary of details, making a deranged rococo of their performances, and stuffing them with slivers and references that go by so quickly they never tire, only delight (look, there’s “Airegin,” and “Nutty,” and “Night in Tunisia,” a faint echo of a Giuffre tune, and – wait – was that really just a nod to Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express”?). Or they take serious complexity, as with the total tempo madness of “Round Bottom, Square Top,” and make it sound so easy and elegant. Even when they break down into free passages, they pursue independent motion and multiple tempos rather than simply sawing away at extended techniques. In this, “Burning Well” and “St. Mary’s Proctor” create the greatest frisson, like some jazz naked singularity, where everything ever played is heard at once.
Does humor belong in music? That’s a question that often gets put to this band of mischief-makers, just as it was put to Rahsaan and Zappa and the Kollektief. But really, how churlish is it to single out one element of such a rich, fully alive band? It’s just seriously good shit.

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