Jon Irabagon: tenor and sopranino saxophones; Steven Bernstein: trumpet; David Taylor: trombone; Brandon Seabrook: banjo and electronics; Ron Stabinsky: piano; Moppa Elliott: bass; Kevin Shea: drums.
The versatile jazz band Mostly Other People Do the Killing, abbreviated as MOPDtK, first appeared in 2005 as a quartet. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon, trumpeter Peter Evans, and drummer Kevin Shea, joined the bandleader, main composer, and bassist Moppa Elliott. They immediately drew attention with their musical irreverence and easy-going posture, parodying the music of jazz giants through provocative originals and scattered covers.
Avant-garde, bop in all its variations, Americana, swing jazz, and blues are common ingredients of their boisterous musical cocktail.
Throughout the years, there were some changes made both in sound and lineup. In 2003, when they released Red Hot!, the quartet was expanded into a septet with the addition of pianist Ron Stabinsky, trombonist David Taylor, and banjo player Brandon Seabrook.
For the next two recordings, Blue (an unnerving recreation of Miles’ Kind of Blue) and Mauch Chunk, they returned to the quartet formation with Stabinsky staying put to assure harmonic (in)stability and compensate Evans’ absence.
With the all-singing, all-dancing Loafer’s Hollow, the septet formation (trumpeter Steven Bernstein is the novelty) continues absorbing a variety of influences and spreading originality. The band evinces a clear tendency to hold onto jazz roots and adapt them to our days with blasts of post-modernity. Here, they show an instinctive fondness for merging traditional swing from the 30’s and 40’s with avant-garde jazz, creating coruscating ideas garnished with humor and color.
Elliott’s eight tunes (four of them dedicated to literary figures) exude a cheerful ecstasy, starting with the frolicking opener “Hi-Nella”, a semi-fanfare comprising swing, folk, blues, and even a pinch of Mexican ranchera. Bernstein entertains us with a solo intervention packed with zingy notes and mellifluous phrasing.
Even incorporating rock-solid movements, the same convivial disposition is transferred to “Mason & Dixon”, where we bump into ragtime rhythms enhanced by the banjo contortions of Seabrook, here more restrained than when he has an electric guitar in hand.
“Bloomsburg”, a modern “Hello! Dolly”, has everything a Broadway classic may ask for, plus alternate 4-bar virulent improvisations and a few extemporaneous rhythmic freak-outs by Shea as bonuses.
While the horn-driven “Honey Hole” feels like a pre-bop standard, the pop tones of “Meridian” brings the melody of Huey Lewis’ “This is It” into mind.
In opposition to these, “Kilgore” has a predilection to explore grunts, squeaks, squawks, and other curious noises, getting a bizarre-circus feel when Stabinsky has his solo stretch.
The recording closes with “Five (Corners, Points, Forks)”, a buoyant ride instigated by dreamy toy sounds of piano and sopranino.
Loafer’s Hollow is just about fun and energy. It’s an addictive album that may easily attract fans of mainstream and modern jazz due to its hybrid nature.
03 – Bloomsburg ► 04 – Kilgore ► 06 – Meridian