Label: Out Of Your Head Records, 2018
Personnel - Anna Webber: tenor saxophone; Ed Rosenberg: tenor and bass saxophones; Josh Sinton: baritone saxophone and bass clarinet; Jonathan Goldberger: guitar; Adam Hopkins: bass; Devin Grey: drums.
The evidence that Baltimore-born, Brooklyn-based bassist Adam Hopkins is a true rocker is in the nature of his compositions. Moreover, he assures that his sextet rocks as one. The band members - saxophonists Anna Webber, Ed Rosenberg, and Josh Sinton; guitarist Jonathan Goldberger; and drummer Devin Grey - infuse their searing energy in the eight tracks that compose Crickets, the bassist's auspicious debut record.
The first track, gorgeously entitled “They Can Swim Backwards But Sometimes Choose Not To”, lasts less than two minutes, but stirs your soul with a shifting ostinato uttered by an active horn section operating on top of a tenacious, sturdy and asymmetric groove. Even standing firm on its own, the concise piece can also function as an introduction to “Crickets/Crime Of The Year”, which starts off as a noisy chamber continuum before a dazzling, additive groove declared by guitar/bass unisons takes over. This is part of an atmosphere that deftly integrates melodic jazz tact and pulsing rock muscle. There’s a succinct, unorthodox dialogue between saxophone and bass clarinet that I wished it was kept going, and a blazing rock-infused guitar solo with enough spiky edges to keep us on the lookout for further finds. To simplify: it packs a punch first and then makes you want to dance at the end.
The same spunky grit and insatiable urgency are displayed on “Mudball”, an alternative rock number professed with a punkish attitude. The textural foundation is securely established by guitar, bass, and drums, before an extravagant tenor solo appears, well supported by blatant guitar strokes and skittish drumming. Guitar and bowed bass work together, promoting a crescendo that rises to a spectacular cacophony, a victorious conclusion.
Shrouded in a lucid, slowcore instrumentation, “Heaven of Bliss” is dug with a casual posture, furnishing its passages either with indie pop riffery or free-form avant-jazz intent. A contrary mood is devised on “I Think The Duck Was Fine”, which finds the band indulging in exuberant horn spirals and fluid rhythms. The piece is invigorated by Rosenberg’s stout improvisation on bass saxophone.
“Scissorhands” is tweaked with the pungent volleys and angular hyperactivity of the frontline, placed over a virulent noise-rock tapestry. In anticipation of this tune, a solitary Hopkins creates “The Minnow”, a personal statement.
Hopkins employs adroit compositional strategies throughout the recording, aiming at an inviting hybridity, which he has all the reasons to be proud of. This is a wonderful start for him as a leader.
02 - Crickets/Crime Of The Year ► 04 - Mudball ► 08 - Scissorhands