This collection, subtitled High Energy Jazz from the Sydney Underground, is certainly high energy, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that there’s a heavy component here of tonguein-cheek. The musicians, led by saxophonist Michael Gordon, are of a high standard, but these originals sound mostly like a weird combination of crazy post-bop and musical send-up. Think Spike Jones goes bebop or the post-bop circus comes to town. Gordon’s tenor sax is aided in the front line by Ken Allars’s trumpet. The Cat’s Pyjamas is a good example of the genre, where solo tenor opens with a six- note riff endlessly repeated as Finn Ryan’s drums and Tom Wade’s acoustic bass start up, while the trumpet throws in a stabbing note at the beginning of each bar. Everything falls silent as the tenor embarks on a solo reminiscent of a burlesque interpretation of Albert Ayler meets Eric Dolphy. Trumpet then delivers a wildly improvised sequence that can only be described as jarring musical humour, albeit cleverly executed. The opener, Big Job, is a preparation for what’s to come, with bop riffs endlessly repeated; even the drum solo manages a heavy stick send-up of various jazz drumming styles. Chumba Chumba begins with a ludicrous a cappella vocal sequence, complete with hysterical laughter. It’s only in the final track, a ballad titled Comedown, that caricature is abandoned. It’s difficult to say to whom this album, with its buffoonery content, will appeal. The best that can be said is that some skilled players have put together a clever send-up.
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