Fight The Big Bull – All is Gladness in the Kingdom (CF 169)
Guitarist Matt White leads this Virginia-based large ensemble featuring estimable and perennially cutting-edge trumpeter Steven Bernstein. Simply stated, this unit projects a illuminating slant on jazz-rock, unlike many other permutations of this ilk. Yet the goodness doesn’t end there. Bernstein’s prominence within New York City’s downtown scene and affiliation with Sex Mob confirms his stance within the newer wave of progressive-jazz shaded art forms. However, the old adage, brilliant minds think alike applies here.
Bernstein’s bawdy lines on trumpet and slide trumpet reside as one of many highlights throughout this polytonal engagement, consisting of gelling dirge motifs, moody horns, brash big-big arrangements and more. The band executes crafty sub-themes and outlines a distinct sound, teeming with cyclical pulses, booming ostinatos and soaring horns. Coupled with White’s scorching psycho-guitar licks and a multi-angled scenario, the musicians fuse simple melodies with themes that ravage the soul and occasionally drift into the netherworld.
The program unfolds as an ongoing plot, hued with memorable hooks, rowdy improvisation, humor, pathos and bluesy episodes to complement the jazz factor. At times, the ensemble dishes out a cinematic soundtrack, reminiscent of 1960s fare. On “All is Gladness in The Kingdom,” either Reggie Pace or Bryan Hooten renders a wild, raspy and whirling trombone solo atop a pummeling rock beat and countered by the hornists’ unorthodox harmonic movements. Nonetheless, the album is an extremely hip and engaging recorded document that lays out fresh new territory via the large ensemble approach. A mid-year top ten pick, indeed…