Horn / Kendig / Dickey / Hipp / Screwdriver!
Leo Lab / CD051

Walter Horn / keyboards, Gary Kendig / drums, Hugh Dickey / guitar, clarinet, Eric Hipp / tenor sax

This is oddball, knockabout stuff with things in common with, say, Noble/Williams/Marshall over here — which is to say, mostly electric, mostly improvised, mostly good-humoured pieces full of vitality. The key term here is “mostly”, of course, because this trio, while they keep the temperature pretty hot throughout, demonstrate a wide range of approaches without ever sounding like a variety show.

Some names that are bound to get mentioned: King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Sun Ra. Still, none of these is much help. It seems that anything with electric guitars gets likened to Crimson these days (the prog rock band we’re allowed to like, apparently) and anything free-jazzy with retro keyboard sounds immediately summons the name of Sun Ra. When these guys cook up a stink — as on “Ambulance and Gas”, for instance — the excitement comes from a real fusion of hard-driving jazz and the energy of a Mahavishnu Orchestra going at full pelt.

They’re fond of slightly awkward, stumbling ostinati, and although all three have technique to spare, solos tend to reach for an atonal version of the gutbucket blues rather than the scalar spirals which are too often a standby in this sort of music. “Welcome to the Lonely Village”, on the other hand, is a lovely soundtrack-in-search-of-a-movie. None of those bludgeoning rock-outs there, and another indication of the trio’s versatility. Those who like this kind of spiky, high-octane fusion — and you know who you are — will love this. It’s a blast. Richard Cochrane