By Paul Acquaro
For some reason, I lost track of Sexmob after 2003's Dime Grind Palace, and so after catching a show by another long-standing Steven Bernstein group "Spanish Fly" a couple of months back, I wondered why this was. Diving back in with Cultural Capital had me instantly a bit nostalgic for the late 90's/early 00's in New York when there were groups like Sex Mob, MMW, and Groove Collective mixing up off kilter grooves and stylistic mashups. This brings it all back, with Steven Bernstein's humor and musicality very much intact.
Kicking off with 'Street', each member of the band is quickly re-introduced starting with the slick and subtle beat from drummer Kenny Wollesen, and the tandem melodies of trumpeter Bernstein and saxophonist (and guitarist) Briggan Krauss. Tony Scherr's bass is not far behind (musically speaking, its right on!) and at times Krauss' guitar adds a bit of bite. The song is a quick introduction to the recording and they are soon into 'Step Apache' in which Bernstein and Krauss play an infectious melody and counter melody over a sly mambo like rhythm.
The short tunes come in rapid succession, each one distinct and tightly composed. For example, the mood become spiritual on 'Helmland' as Bernstein plays a heartfelt tune over forlorn accompaniment. '4 Cents' which begins with a wash of cymbals slowly picks up, turning into a pulsating groove. The next song seamlessly segues into some buzzing saxophone work, its sweet flow befits the name 'Syrup'. The rapid succession of songs keep the album moving along and pack in an incredible assortment of ideas and expression.
Not exactly free jazz, but surely freeing, Bernstein and his crew in Sex Mob have dropped a fun and invigorating album with Cultural Capital. I'm happy I checked back in after so many intervening years!