With a fondness for the fictional but legendary superhero, saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase takes what might seem as even plausible science-fantasy in a more whimsical approach within paradoxical, serious, high level musical endeavor. Playing mainly alto saxophone, Kohlhase creates dense structures with vulnerable null spaces and an elemental, physically mineral musical substance in a music that bears equal parts composition and improvisation. Leading a septet with two drummers in Miki Matsuki and Chris Punis, two saxes, and centered by the vibrant guitarist Eric Hofbauer, this group called the Explorer's Club is collectively the navigator of a huge vacuum where hidden devices, explosives, and dangerous but malleable and useful notated plutonium can be harnessed and used for constructive purposes. While this might seem a flowery description of the music, you can really hear the blurb or thought balloon provoked bam! pow! wham! splat! emphasis of the jazz man as crime fighter, striking out against overtly commercialized pop music. "Jasper Jaguar/Deceptor" are characters from Kohlhase's imagination that germinate from short choruses dissipating into nothingness, then reappearing into ramblings, and concentrated no-time verbalized-type phrases. "Utensor" -- the superhero who uses kitchen implements to save the world -- translates into unison lines of mechanical devices from the horns as a power of silliness and seriousness combined. "Loquator & Tacitumator" are figures who utilize conversational spiky bop and chat from the band and the drummers. Kohlhase's titles are easily as imaginative as his music -- case in point, the stomp down crushing of notes underneath woven rhythms and harmonies of "Thryllkyll on the Schyllkyll/Psychopath on the Cyclepath." Then there's the more lucid "Superhero Beatdown" with free dissertations in swirling and controlled freneticism, or "The Star of the Show" with its call and response horn base to hard funk and strut that is the most urban cut on the date. Kohlhase and fellow saxophonist (tenor and soprano) Matt Langley continue a compatible musical partnership apart from their work with the Either/Orchestra. They continue stretching the parameters of progressive jazz via the influence of John Tchicai, who wrote the two-drummer jam "Stealing Beauty/Potuder Time" with the horns in the shade, or "Decide for Yourself" with its spare sax melody running contrary to the percussion players. This can be difficult music, geared for a specific audience, but the kind where challenged listeners will find the raw sound of the Explorer's Club fascinating, meaty, and full of bulky substance while whuppin' the bad guys.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos