Mostly Other People Do the Killing

Forty Fort

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If Mostly Other People Do the Killing seems to be all about cleverness --mysterious band name, calling their fourth album Forty Fort, Impulse!-like cover art, pseudo-brainiac liner notes by "Leonardo Featherweight," a goof on jazz critic of renown Leonard Feather -- well, there is that. Even those who profess to disdain jazz's avant-garde, into which school this certainly falls, may very well be sucked in by the sheer fun of it all. From the first track, "Pen Argyl," the quartet -- Moppa Elliott (bass), Peter Evans (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto and tenor saxophone), and Kevin Shea (drums, elecronics) -- makes it clear that as serious as they are, they're not all that serious. Taking off like a New Orleans second-line march gone haywire, shifting into psychedelic Dixieland, and ultimately winding its way down into introspective free-form noisemaking and synchronized wailing, MOPDTK leaves no doubt that they are in control of their particularly jovial brand of chaos. That Elliott's songwriting (all but one is his, the other is a Neal Hefti cover) is carefully plotted, however, is also undeniable -- there is considerable melody skimming the surface, even at the most out-of-control moments (the title track, the sizzling "Nanticoke Coke"), and while Forty Fort serves as a showcase for each of its contributors to blow uninhibitedly, that they're all sharply tuned in to one another at all times becomes increasingly evident as the jams unfold. These tunes do swing, and they do groove, they boil over, collide, fly off the handle, and command constant attention. They're funky and provocative and electrifyingly, cracklingly hot. If at times the barrage of sounds seems to overwhelm, it's only because these guys love to play (as in fun time, adventurous play) so much that they can't help but run amok. From a post-bop base they expand outward into parts unknown -- stopping cold to emit a minute's worth of what sounds like a demented slide whistle, engaging in brass-ified cackling, going momentarily bluesy, then forgetting why they did that and returning to untethered improv. The very last sounds on this otherwise non-vocal recording are those of a flushing toilet and a woman's voice (à la an encouraging mom) ironically imploring, "You did a great job!" We already know that by then, but the thumbs up is reassuring.

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