January 18, 2020
Chant Records CR 1910 SA
With improvised music still mostly a player’s art, Gulgoleth is one of the few sessions where the date’s leader composed all the tunes and directs the band, but doesn’t play. But this hardly matters since auteur Sam Eastmond, a British trumpeter involved with the Spike Orchestra (SO) and TORU has created a distinctive framework for the quartet.
Actually consisting of the SO’s rhythm section – pianist Elliot Galvin, guitarist Moss Freed, bassist Otto Willberg and drummer Will Glaser – Gulgoleth’s instrumentation suggests that the CD would reflect the more Rock-oriented side of John Zorn, Eastmond’s admitted influence, but there are more musical signposts here. Although the composer’s mash up of various musical genres resembles Zorn’s work on discs like Naked City, the strands of Rock, Jazz, Pop, Klezmer, Schmaltz and Metal heard suggest the ideas of another Z, Frank Zappa. And to stretch a point Zeppo, the most underappreciated of the Marx Brothers, who was witty off screen, may have an influence as well.
It is wit not burlesque which characterize these tunes, which whether the composer realized it or not divide into two categories. The first four are part of the Rock spectrum, while the four remaining are closer to Jazz. From the top the cut-and-paste orientation is expressed by Rock-like guitar riffs and the pianist pounding out jazzy interludes. Still no matter how overwrought the exposition may be, especially when pseudo waltz time peeks through, narratives are still conventional enough to complete the performances by recapping the tunes’ heads. The zenith of these Fusion affiliations occurs on “In the Grip of the Lobster” and “Atlantis Falls”, which sound like one continuous tune. Atop super-fast drum ruffs and wah-wah guitar riffs that reach bugle-call-like ascending pitches, pianist Galvin sprinkles glissandi like Tinker Belle’s pixie dust. Subsequently what seemed to be a conclusion revs up again with Glaser’s cymbals sizzling and reverberating chord shaking from guitarist Freed amalgamate into a slinky narrative that advances a TV Western-like theme to a piano-led pastoral ending.
Although more sensed than heard, Willberg’s pacing is crucial for the remaining Jazz-like tunes, which add jittery e exotica to the foot-tapping beat. Still the hard paced or chiming percussion strategies, sometimes soulful piano fills and guitar licks sometime suggest Hawaiian slack-key string patterns as well as tango and rhumba-style rhythms, while Galvin’s voicing touches his inner Jerry Lee Lewis. These and other motifs come to fruition during “Angel of Self-Destruction”, the nearly 15-minute playlet which ends the disc. Among shuffle drum beats and dramatic keyboard comping, traces of The Shadows-style scene-setting guitar licks and a jerky Klezmer-like melodic overlay enter the piece, making it speedier and most expansive. Finally guitar string pings and vocalized sul tasto stings from the bassist help the piece relax into sweeping sound panorama.
Connecting his musical influences into a program that is rare and reminiscent at the same time, Eastmond has produced a notable debut for Gulgoleth. Next time out though, he should express these ideas with his own horn as well.
Track Listing: 1. Zombi Love 2. Buzzard Soup 3. In the Grip of the Lobster 4. Atlantis Falls 5. Involuntary Jaw Spasm (NFH) 5. Standing On the Shoulders of Giantslayers 6. Plastic Flower 7. Angel of Self-Destruction
Personnel: Elliot Galvin (piano); Moss Freed (guitar); Otto Willberg (bass); Will Glaser (drums) and Sam Eastmond (compositions and direction)