With a title like The Nearest Exit…May be Inside your Head, you know David Bixler's coming from the old 70s nu-fusion school of hard knocks, hard bop, and 'hard to shut the CD player off once you start in' realm of intelligent musicianship…and I'm not complaining one little bit about any of it. The Zoho label has been noted for putting out solid jazz of various stripes, and this one's gonna sit very nicely indeed in the catalogue. Bixler plays alto sax, Scott Wendholt hits the trumpet, and Nearest Exit is chiefly a blow session atop a three-piece rhythm section. In fact, backpeddling the guitar to that mode is one of the striking features of the disc—not that John Hart doesn't get to step out, he does, but his main function is to widen the rhythmic colorations with bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Andy Watson.
There's a lot of delicious atonality, near-atonalism, and quite a potpourri of no end of stylistic adaptations here in compositions that stretch out and explore their own terrain. These qualities appear in recognizable modes, albeit elastically pulled in more than one direction, so we're not talking Sun Ra here, more a Sanders / Mobley / Miles / etc. thing liberally mixed with 70s/80s border-breaking with near-rock influences. Liner notes writer Arturo O'Farrill tells us that Three Dog Years kinda 'has something to do with dog years compared to marriage years' and he 'can't quite get whether or not that's a positive or negative statement'. After chuckling, I realized it was an accurate statement of the multivalenced music going on here as well as the enigmas, ambivalences and depths.
I mean, look at Bixler in the front liner photo as well as the interior shot. This is a guy who's not exactly delighted with the world he's looking at and intends to do something definitive about it. It shows in Nearest Exit because that ain't Yanni jamming with John Tesh and George Winston, not by planets and galaxies it isn't. Mingus and Kirk would dig Exit, erudite stoners will melt, and hard-headed jazzbos are gonna find a wealth of engrossing…well, O'Farrill notes that Bixler compositions have their own internal logics, and that's an uderstatement. You're going to have a few more wrinkles in the grey matter when The Nearest Exit shuts down, all contained in one of those 'Whoa…what just happened?' moments we don't get enough of in modern music. Call it evolution.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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