MOPDTK model their release covers after classic Jazz records and utilize a Jazz-like instrumentation of trumpet (Peter Evans), saxophone (Jason Irabagon), upright bass (Moppa Elliot) and drums (Kevin Shea), yet the music on their latest record Slippery Rock isn't quite jazz. Or is it? This music seems rooted in something closer to fusion, evidenced by its frequent usage of straight time, pop sensibilities, and increased volume. It's also shot through with ample doses of humor. Not to say it's jokey, it simply doesn't take itself too seriously, which is actually a breath of fresh air considering the extraordinary musicianship on display here.
Evans and Irabagon divide their time between brandishing extended technique and creating melodic lines that border on pop singability. Their interplay is at times reminiscent of Ornette and Don Cherry's sing-songy lines, minus the anguished underlying blues sensibilities. In the rhythm section, Elliot's bouncy bass pushes the music into melodic territory at every turn, and helps support the more reckless moments with fluid pulse. His sound is round and assured, and full of subtle invention. He's the perfect foil to Shea, whose beats veer in and out of solid rhythm and the abyss of freedom in a vaguely proggy fashion. The group settles into a sort of funk groove several times on this release, such as on "Yo, Yeo, Yough" and "Dexter, Wayne, and Mobley". Elsewhere Evans and Irabagon employ an arsenal of multiphonics and circular breathing to great effect on "Is Granny Spry?", which sets a foreboding tone over its slow rock cadence and occasional breakdowns.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you call this music. Slippery Rock is a collection of well arranged song-forms that feature controlled, if not polite, frenzy and total group cohesion. Regardless of its tongue in cheek references it somehow creates a new language altogether, and fits right in with the aesthetics of the best jazz of any era. Thanks to MOPDTK for giving jazz in the 21st century a nudge towards an expanded vocabulary while giving us a laugh in the process.
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