An unlikely moniker for a progressive jazz trio, White Rocket nonetheless plays fierce music based on angular motifs, craggy edged beats, and powerful kinetic energy. This democratic triad of trumpeter Jacob Wick, pianist Greg Felton, and drummer Sean Carpio play heady music with crafty, sinuous lines, snake-like, writhing rhythms, and no small sense of drama or ambiguities. There's a certain corollary to the modern sounds of admitted influences like Dave Douglas or Vijay Iyer, while listeners will also hear a bit of the scintillating Bad Plus approach to jazz with a punk mentality. There's solid, substantive music here, especially coming from young players in their twenties who all contribute compositions. Wick's "Mutatis Mutandis," with its spiky, heavy, distended but steady funk, echoes shades of peers Douglas, Cuong Vu, or Corey Wilkes, "Recent Events" is a late-night shuffle with stabbing phrases, and "Symptoms" is contrastingly hesitant, careful, and deliberate. Felton's four pieces range from the modal and scattershot "His Story," the band's signature track "Lonely Toad" with its pensive insularity, or the gliding stairstep tones of "Sung Once" almost sweet and soulful. Their magnum opus, "Susan Styra," at over 13 minutes, is couched in a traipsing 6/8 time signature centered by Felton's playful piano, reminiscent of the elfin Joanne Brackeen, very insistent music with a completely improvised mid-section. Carpio's lone composition, "Hone," is exploratory and driven sideways, but mostly about tension and release. The sense of adventure is here within a challenged rhythmic concept that borders on gothic, and where there is no bass player as one might expect, the bottom end is sacrificed for shaky staccato accents and a lean, mean spirit without compromise. To call this debut auspicious might be an understatement, but it is at the least a formidable opening salvo. Certainly White Rocket has a unique starting point to build upon.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos