Jazz Combustion Uprising is an absorbing San Francisco quintet oscillating between reverent takes on trad bases and then looking forward. All songs are written by saxist David Alt and his Rising at first sounds just like a long-lost Michael Mantleresque section from Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, blending neoclassical attitude with jazz textures with late Romanticism. The 4-page liner booklet is a trifle stiff and stilted but the assertion it makes, that the tracks in the Modern vein (there's also 'Blues' and 'Standards') are "adventurous compositions that blur lines", finds no argument from me, as the title cut, Self-Immolation, also demonstrates a blend of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, echoes of the old Black Saint label, Anthony Davis, and the kind of modernist thinking that Nonesuch, ECM, and other labels once showcased.
Cupcake Flavor Profile may be Zappa-esque nomenclaturing, but the song is highly be-boppy while Series of Adjustments brings memories of Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner together in Grant Levin's pianistics. Forget about me recommending a favorite cut 'cause the more I listen, the more I like everything, but what really first caught my ear was the quirkily titled This Unmemorable Evening wherein Henry Hung plies his trumpet in exquisitely raw fashion, David Alt's sax slinking around him, also enjoying a solo spot but in the shadow of Hung's insouciant lines. The conversation continues into the aforementioned Self-Immolation, becoming a colloquy between all the members ambling down city streets, metro-rail and buses passing by, then breaks into melodious chaos in A Classic Base, at times calling back to Hubert Laws' old aviary with Chick Corea or even The Circle's classic work, maybe a taste or two of Trummerflora.
This is music designed to be reveled in, crossing the dividing line between tradition, novelty, adventure, and rebellion. It does so both formally and highly informally, so, while listening, I never knew whether I should don a Brooks Bros. suit and discuss stock options with the band or just throw on a t-shirt, make my way to the pub, knock back a few beers and sidecars with 'em, or maybe meet one and all in the Abstract wing of the L.A. County Museum of Art. Hmmm…maybe all three. Jump into a suit, meet at Smily Joe's Happy Hooch House, and then head for LACMA drunk. I know Gaugin would approve, Klee too, Picasso as well. Yep, sounds like a plan.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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