Mostly Other People Do the Killing, the smart, fun-loving, occasionally smirky jazz quartet consisting of trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist Jon Irabagon, bassist Moppa Elliott, and drummer Kevin Shea, released a terrific album, Slippery Rock, in January. Eight months later, they’re back, with Red Hot, on which they’ve expanded to a seven-piece band with the addition of Brandon Seabrook on banjo, Dave Taylor on bass trombone, and Ron Stabinsky on piano. Any extra personnel on a MOPDtK disc is a surprise—they’ve never done this before—and the presence of Seabrook, in particular, will probably clue some listeners in to what’s going on here, assuming the photo above, or the album’s title and cover art (see below), hasn’t already given away the game. On Slippery Rock, bandleader/composer Elliott claimed to be exploring the smooth jazz of the 1970s and 1980s; this time, the source material is “hot” jazz of the 1920s and 1930s. Yeah, I don’t know either. Maybe he’s a big Boardwalk Empire fan. redhot Whatever his reasons for adapting the stylistic tropes of jazz’s earliest years, Elliott and his bandmates retain their love of wild exploration, musical japery, and overall joy. Red Hot is, simply put, a blast to listen to. In another break with tradition, this is the first MOPDtK disc not to open with a drum solo; instead, the entire band is present from the first notes of “The Shickshinny Shimmy,” with the guests getting particularly prominent placement. Throughout the album, attempts are made to subvert anything that might drag the music down into dance-band pastiche; the title track begins with an interlude of banjo and humming, crackling electronics from Seabrook, while the solo piano intro to “King of Prussia” contains quotations from Scott Joplin‘s “The Entertainer” and Joe Jackson‘s “Steppin’ Out.” There’s also no attempt to re-create period sound via unusually primitive recording methodology; during Jon Irabagon‘s solo passage on “Seabrook, Power, Plank,” the valves of his C-melody saxophone can be heard clicking. Kevin Shea‘s drums have an emphatic, rock-like thump, and Elliott’s bass booms and throbs in ways that would make Charles Mingus (who gets a nod via the title of “Orange is the Name of the Town”) shout with pleasure. The usual MOPDtK juxtapositions and temporal leaps—conventional, even retro melody giving way to ultra-modern or wildly free solos—are in play throughout Red Hot, and the guests adapt to the method with great facility, particularly Stabinsky, who based on his performance here officially qualifies for “hidden treasure” status. The trilling, scrowling, squawking interplay of three horns at the beginning of “Gum Stump” is as wild as any Euro improv session, and yet it transitions with mercurial smoothness into a slowly rolling blues. Nothing on Red Hot feels studied or put-on; every moment is simultaneously earned and simply grabbed. Mostly Other People Do the Killing refuse to be constrained by any conceptions of jazz propriety, but every note they (and their guests) play comes from genuine love of the music—everything it is, has been, and can be in the future. Given their combination of raw talent, compositional wit and technical brilliance, and their optimism and irreverence within a jazz scene that so often lately feels paralyzed by a funereal fatalism on the one hand and an almost suicidal refusal to be fun or entertaining on the other, they might be one of the most important groups working today. —Phil Freeman Stream the album’s final track, “Bird-in-Hand,” below:

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One Comment on “Mostly Other People Do The Killing

  1. Pingback: Newsbits: Matthew Shipp, Ross Hammond, and MOPDTK Reviewed / Evan Parker Commissioned | Avant Music News

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