Countdown Quartet

Sadlack's Stomp

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After shifting personnel on its first two releases, Raleigh, NC's Countdown Quartet finally reflects its name by encompassing just four members. Trombonist/bandleader Dave Wright, assisted by guest horn players, keeps the brass bopping on nearly all these tunes. The resulting eclectic sound encompasses classic ska ("Mr. Tippy"), straight-ahead Dixieland jazz (the title track, where Je Widenhouse's trumpet sounds spookily like Louis Armstrong's), Caribbean rhythms ("Mardi Gras in Gloucester"), and a funky New Orleans second-line groove that lies at the core ("Wildcat"). The nearly seven-minute "Joseph" tells the biblical tale in a finger-popping reggae/funk style, with David Andrews' nearly primitive guitar powering the song along with Wright's dominant trombone and Steve Grothmann's standup bass. The album (named after a club located in their hometown) also boasts a few instrumentals. Bassist/alto saxophonist Grothmann's "F.P.T." pushes into avant-garde territory, especially when Andrews' guitar shifts into noisy chords, but the group never loses its hold on "The Cook"'s groove, another slithery vocal-free piece that sounds like it was recorded as the band marched down Bourbon Street. Even when the Countdown Quartet find their Meters pocket on the opening instrumental, "Snow Monkey," they retain their individuality with squabbling horns, guitar, and rhythmic drums. Walking the line between tight arrangements and looser playing injects the album with a live, organic feel. Upbeat, swinging, and crisp, this is roots dance music that keeps its finger on the funky pulse, even as it explores other territory.

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