Dog Leg Dilemma

Not This Time
No Label No#

By Ken Waxman

Like the apocryphal teenager who asked in surprise “you mean Paul McCartney was in another group before Wings?”, the young members of the Toronto-based Dog Leg Dilemma (DLD) sound as if they figure jazz was invented in the 1970 and 1980s, with the touchstones rock fusion, John Zorn and Frank Zappa’s instrumental work. Still, DLD’s core of alto saxophonist Anthony Argatoff, guitarist Nick Lavkulik, drummer Noah Sherman and Peter Bull who plays basses, several ancillary instruments and composed the seven tunes here, are a refreshing change from many bands which appear mired in the 1950s and 1960s. Plus starting off the CD with “This Must Be Why I Came Home” with an ersatz emcee’s comments leading into a jazz-rock polka shows a sense of fun lacking in many jazzers.

But an outstanding group must transcend its influences, even if it’s like a laundry detergent that provides the same cleaning power with more ingredients and new packaging. There’s no dispute that DLD is able to create foot-tapping sounds featuring unrelenting drum smacks and tough guitar chops at times approaching punk-rock stamina. But these tunes never get dirty or ragged enough. Additionally, on tracks like “Part 1 – Are You Sure about This” and “Part 2 – Not This Time”, where, harmonized with Lavkulik’s framing strums, Argatoff squeezes out dulcet plumy notes, the effect is like hearing an overwrought crooner. With no tone flattened or torqued, sentiment is obvious, but passion is missing. Other pieces are superior, with “Equestrian Playtime” galloping along with a warm, Latin-tinged guitar solo and guest violinist Natalie Wong overdubbed into a string section. Although its allegiances too are as noticeable as if they were tattooed on the band members, the flexibility obvious in “Roll with the Hunches” make it the most notable track. Melding licks from Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia”, a quote from “Good King Wenceslas”, a rumbling bass line, violin sweeps and pseudo reed honks, it demonstrates how DLD could up its game.

Right now DLD has a leg up on creating original statements. If in future it tones down routine drum beats and eliminates reed sappiness, it could end up musically standing tall on its own two (times four) feet. Not This Time perhaps, but maybe the next time out.

-For The Whole Note March 2017