Time for holidays and celebrations. Let's be a little less formal, spiritual, serious and high-brow, here are some fun records, guaranteed to lift the spirits and make you get up from you lazy chair. Compact rhythmic music with a smile.
Happy Apple - Back On Top (Sunny Side Records, 2007) ***
This is the seventh release by the Happy Apple trio, consisting of Erik Fratzke on acoustic bass, Dave King on drums and Michael Lewis on saxophone and keyboards. Their hard-driving energetic rock-influenced jazz has not changed over this period of twelve years. Eleven tracks clocking around five minutes on average, fresh, melodic and fun. It's not boundary-shaking, but it's fun.
Lucien Dubuis - Le Retour ( Unit Records, 2007) ***
This is the second album by the Swiss-based Lucien Dubuis Trio, with the leader on sax, Roman Nowka on guitar and bass, and Lionel Friedli on drums. The arrangements are minimal, the 19 tracks of about 3 minutes long all riff-based as in rock music, straight-forward, intense and powerful. It's light, creative and fun.
Soil & Pimp Sessions - Pimpoint (Viktor, 2007) ***
Crazy Japanese jazz-band does it again, continuing on the same track of their previous albums. Crazy in their hyper-energetic approach, yet with lots of technical skills in the musicianship and in the arrangements. The album consists of 14 tracks of about 4 minutes, including Freddie Hubbard's Red Clay, which is a welcome point of rest in between the unbridled funky power the band unleashes, varying between a television car chase soundtrack, cinematic triumphant horn parts over more motown-influenced rhythms to current dance beats. There are more electronics to be heard than on the previous ones, but otherwise they keep repeating themselves, only with new songs. Considering the novelty of their approach, that's maybe not a bad strategy. With Shacho as "Agitator", Josei on piano, Akita Goldman on bass, Tabu Zombie on trumpet, Motoharu on sax and Midorin on drums.
Mostly Other People Do The Killing - Shamokin!!! - (Hot Cup Records, 2007) ***
Mostly Other People Do The Killing is a New York band, consisting of Moppa Elliott on bass, Kevin Shea on drums, Peter Evans on trumpet and Jon Irabagon on saxes. Moppa Elliott wrote all the material : 10 tracks of about 6 minutes long. The band's intention is to bring back fun into jazz, and that is what they do : building on the tradition, but with an open mind, rough and hard. As Elliott writes "I like my jazz with some dirt on it, sometimes a lot of dirt. Jazz has started to take itself too seriously and is in danger of falling into the same stagnant condition that so-called “classical music” is in now."
On this album, the arrangements are more complex than on the albums reviewed above, with room for short and compact improvizations, except for the last track, a long rendition of "Night In Tunesia" on which drums, sax and trumpet get the chance to play long solos.
Listen to Shamokin!!! below (and don't ask me how the visuals relate to the music...).