ORGANON

Klusterbuckstuckle
SLAM CD 256

Comprised for the most part by musicians from British jazz-rock’s first generation, Organon tries to update a style that ossified into formula around the time Jaco Pastorius joined Weather Report.

That they succeed in part can be attributed to the musical skills of the quintet. Unfortunately though, this session, recorded in real time, can’t quite recapture the improvisational freshness that once characterized the genre, since the set routines of rock outnumber the jazz flourishes.

Famous in a Trekkie kind of way for his short membership in ProgRock band Soft Machine in the late 1960s, saxophonist Elton Dean is probably the best-known player here. Subsequent encounters with players like trombonist Roswell Rudd has confirmed that his jazz chops still function.

Coming from the rock-jazz side of the equation, though are the two men who initially assembled the band: guitarist Tim Crowther and drummer Jim Lebaigue. Veteran of bands like Network, Conglomerate and Dreamtime Crowther’s very much committed to the style, having worked with various ex-King Crimson, ex-Soft Machine and ex-Damned [!] players. Another part of Dreamtime, Lebaigue is also a founder member of The Bugger All Stars [sic]. Resident of the United Kingdom since 1970, Brooklyn born trumpeter Jim Dvorak has played in jazz surroundings with pianist Keith Tippett, drummer Louis Moholo and The Brotherhood of Breath, but also was a member of Dreamtime. Younger than the rest, bassist John Edwards is the odd man out here. Although he has rock roots, he mostly works in Free Music with saxophonist John Butcher among others.

Contrasting currents therefore give KLUSTERBUCKSTUCKLE a curiously schizoid quality. Perhaps cognizant of the old arena rock days, the horn players, especially Dean, don’t want to fully commit to electric impulses, while the guitarist –

who also uses guitar synthesizer – and drummer intentionally or nor sabotage most attempts at restrain or balladic story telling.

Dvorak seems not to mind. He and Dean may be involved in subtle chord blending between sluicing sax lines and chromatic brass interjections – almost trading fours in a jazz sense – when the rhythm section heats up. Lebaigue discharge a rolling fusillade of thumping bass drum and snares and thumping, cymbal shimmers, extended even more with pulsating arpeggios from Crowther plus stentorian sweeps from his synthesizer. With most parts of the drum set quivering and the guitar’s crunching phaser in constant use, the trumpeter replies with an aggressive, brassy overlay and Dean is reduced to nasal flattement and irregular vibrations. He may rise to the bait with double -tongued harsher runs, but they’re no match for the guitarist’s echoing, accelerating speed and volume, and synth cadences that seem to devour every empty space.

This playlet is performed with variations on each of the CD’s four tracks. Dean at one point attempts to quote a Coltranesque lick and with it rouses chromatic blasts from Dvorak, but flanged amp action, concentrated drum beat pressure and the thick synth texture triumphs once again.

Those whose improv appreciation was forged in the halcyon says of fusion – or who are unshakable fans of any of the players – may rate the disc higher. Dean and Dvorak may relish this sort of challenge. But an all-acoustic setting would provide a more sympathetic showcase for their skills.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Rekelecterak 2. Klusterbuckstuckle 3. Arpaloogy 4. Froomillais

Personnel: Jim Dvorak (trumpet); Elton Dean (alto and soprano saxophones): Tim Crowther (guitar and guitar synthesizer); John Edwards (bass); Jim Lebaigue (drums)