If you name your band after one of pianist Andrew Hill’s best albums, you better come out swinging. This quintet (which has no pianist, by the way) does exactly that. This is a red-hot live recording that reminds me a lot of the second Miles Davis quintet toward the end of its run, when Miles was making Herbie Hancock play electric piano and the band’s grooves were heading in a soul/funk direction. Indeed, there’s a version of “Black Comedy,” from Miles in the Sky, on this disc. Except, like I said, there’s no keyboardist—instead, we get Nir Felder’s surgically clean guitar.
The title track is the only original tune on this album. The others are, in order, a lengthy run through Herbie Hancock’s “I Have a Dream,” the aforementioned “Black Comedy,” a take on “Number 4” by Kenny Cox, with whom I am totally unfamiliar, and a version of Andrew Hill’s “Erato.” Some cursory online research indicates that Cox’s group, the Contemporary Jazz Quintet, released two Blue Note albums in the late ’60s that were very much in the same vein as the rest of the stuff being explored on Snuck In, which leads me to believe more thorough investigation is required.
Everyone here is playing hard from beginning to end. The near-twenty-minute version of “Number 4” features a solo from tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen that starts out rather meditative and Joe Henderson-esque before launching into Wayne Shorter-in-1968 territory, over rhythm work from bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jamire Williams that’s got the energy and suspense of the parkour chase scene in the 2006 version of Casino Royale. Interestingly, when Weiss takes the lead, on open horn, he chooses at first to play at a radically slower tempo, and behind him Williams begins to focus on the cymbals rather than attempting any sort of forceful timekeeping. Eventually, he speeds up, unleashing upper-middle register runs of great power and accuracy, while Felder’s guitar hovers in the background. When he does get a solo of his own, though, it’s like he’s been grinding his teeth waiting for the opportunity. It’s an eruption that reminds me more of Catfish Collins’ work with James Brown from 1971 (watch/listen here) than anything in jazz. Oh, and then there’s the part where Williams attempts to demolish his kit.
This is a ferociously energetic album that will make you jump up and down as you listen to it. Even the lone ballad (“Erato”) has more energy than most bands’ set-launching blowouts. If I wanted to bother registering one small complaint, it would be about the cleanliness of Nir Felder’s tone. I’d have preferred a small amount of distortion—not Sonny Sharrock, certainly, but maybe some fuzz or static around the edges. But that’s a super-minor complaint, especially when he’s being drowned out by J.D. Allen’s barking-walrus solo yawps on the closing title track. Of all the records I’ve reviewed this month, this is one of the few I gotta pretty much insist people hear.
1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Oh, yes.
2. Should you buy this record? Definitely.
Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…