Joey Sellers makes a damn fine bandleader. El Payaso is his Jazz Aggregation's first release in a few years and it seems that since the ensemble's previous album, Sellers has picked up a few compositional ideas from his time in the Satoko Fujii Orchestra. Tracks like "Odd Children," "El Payaso," and "Corrugated Beak" have that extra rock edge found in Madam Fujii's exuberant band pieces. The other tracks are overtly jazzier, with "Carly B." marking a whimsical bop high (you are allowed three guesses to find out who it pays homage to -- and the first two don't count). Sellers being a trombonist, the Jazz Aggregation is a trombonist's dream come true, with a third of its 12 chairs occupied by 'bone players. One of them, Joe Fiedler, kicks off the album with a mean solo in the title piece, which sets the tone early on. Sellers juxtaposes sharp horn licks with clever developments, skillfully introduced solos, and palpable group energy. The longest piece is also the best: "Odd Children"'s boisterous themes, raucous fun, and out soloing create a thrilling ride. Dave Ballou's trumpet solo in "Corrugated Beak" provides another high point. Despite the welcome respite it brings, "Rain as Grace," with its smooth jazz leanings, sounds slightly out of place. "Carly B." does a better job at calming down the proceedings while keeping the band in character. Surely quite busy conducting, Sellers keeps rather quiet, taking only two solos, one of them placed at a key point in the closing "Val." El Payaso offers some strong avant big-band music with strong ties to the jazz tradition.
El Payaso Review
by François Couture