Polar Bear

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Peepers Review

by Sean Westergaard

Polar Bear are an interesting band. On paper, two tenor saxes, acoustic bass, and drums look like a fairly standard jazz setup, but the addition of guitar/electronics puts a decidedly different spin on things. The music is clearly not written as a vehicle for soloing; these are songs, played by a band. They're concise and generally have a pop song structure. Everyone contributes to the songs, without grandstanding or tenor battles. Drummer Sebastian Rochford (who writes all the tunes) is a tasty and melodic drummer, supported nicely by bassist Tom Herbert. Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart are both fine tenor players who can add some edge when need be but generally play it pretty cool. Leafcutter John splits pretty equally between rhythmic guitar comping and well-placed "what-the-hell-is-that-sound?" electronics. They can play it uptempo and fun like "Happy for You" and "Peepers" or they can bring it down and get slow and/or mysterious as on "A New Morning Will Come" and "Finding Our Feet." Then there's "Drunken Pharoah," which sounds like it's falling down the stairs. Peepers is the sound of jazz-rock in the new millennium. Very well done.

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