Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Slumgum review - NYC Jazz Record

The Sky His Own

Los Angeles-based Slumgum’s newest album cover
features a hexagonal patchwork. The mostly ivory
toned landscape is dotted with a few scattered blasts of
paisley, checkers and stripes. It’s an apt fabric-based
representation of the contents of the album. The
youthful quartet (drummer Trevor Anderies,
saxophonist Jon Armstrong, pianist Rory Cowal,
bassist David Tranchina) is joined by cornet veteran
Hugh Ragin, who contributes many of those abrupt
swatches amid the band’s groove.

The setlist is a group effort with each member
contributing at least one apiece. Tranchina gets the
first shot with “Zoyoki Gnoki”, a satisfying feature for
his rhythmically-inclined support. He bounces around
the changes alongside Cowal as an engaging backdrop
for Armstrong’s muscular solo.

Ragin’s lone compositional contribution, “Silver
Cornet News”, opens as a straightahead swinger, the
cornetist pushing things further out as the track
progresses, with Armstrong joining him on a fluttering
soprano saxophone until Cowal digs right back into
the swing pushed heartily by Anderies and Tranchina.
The extended opus provides everyone with a generous
solo spotlight.

A long swath of sleepiness travels from Tranchina’s
“Mayday” to Anderies’ “Kyo” before making way for
Armstrong’s expansive “Inherent Vibrations”, which
runs the gamut of styles over a quarter of an hour. The
tune opens with a dreamlike sway before rolling into a
solid backbeat for Ragin’s spastic horn and then
Cowal’s flirtatious rolls. None of the vibes last too long
as the quintet gradually segues from peace into a
rumbling dissonance. Cowal gets the last word with
his “Minuet”. Ragin and Armstrong briefly don their
ragged parlor wigs through the time-signature-free
interactions. The bandmembers sputter and jolt each
other to a demure close.

Through it all the band takes many sharp turns,
covering a fair amount of real estate. It is hard to tell
whether the avant garde or the straightahead moments
are more unexpected but the band tackles both with
aplomb. This is a thoroughly modern record that
successfully ties together multiple generations, genres
and sensations into a wide-reaching whole.

Slumgum @ NYC Jazz Record

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