Free Nelson Mandoomjazz – The Organ Grinder – RareNoise

The doom metal/jazz innovators veer toward a stronger jazz vibe..

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz – The Organ Grinder – RareNoise RNR068, 70:02 [9/30/16] ****:

(Rebecca Sneddon – saxophone; Colin Stewart – electric bass; Paul Archibald – drums, percussion, piano (track 5), organ (track 11); Luc Klein – trumpet (tracks 2, 5-6, 9); Patrick Darley – trombone (tracks 4, 6))

Jazz has shown an ability to combine with many other musical genres since its inception. Soul-jazz. Third stream music. Jazz-rock. One of the newer crosshatchings melds doom metal with jazz and is one of the most extreme confluences, in terms of loudness, aggressiveness and amplification. The multi-national trio Free Nelson Mandoomjazz (formed in Scotland, but only one member now resides in that area), has quickly become the vanguard for this unique and vociferous type of jazz fusion. For those unfamiliar with doom metal (which developed in the 1980s), the genre has a much thicker or heavier sound than other metal genres, and is characterized by slow tempos, low-tuned guitars and an impending perception of despair or doom. Not the kind of fare some jazz fans would be attracted to, but cuisine readymade for the RareNoise label, which promotes avant jazz and improvisatory music which has a mighty forcefulness and fierceness.

Earlier CDs from Free Nelson Mandoomjazz—which comprises saxophonist Rebecca Sneddon, electric bassist Colin Stewart and drummer Paul Archibald—were typified by the threesome’s doom metal influences, although jazz elements were also present. On the group’s new, 70-minute CD, The Organ Grinder, the jazz is now more upfront and cogent. The album title hints at a Jimmy Smith organ jazz LP, and Free Nelson Mandoomjazz covers Horace Silver, which may come as a surprise to longtime Free Nelson Mandoomjazz listeners. The band is also, for the first time, supplemented by two additional horn players, trombonist Patrick Darley and trumpeter Luc Klein; and Archibald uses acoustic grand piano on some tracks; and performs on a pipe organ on the final piece.

There’s a specific sense of juxtaposition which ranges through the 11 pieces. There is relatively benign and minimalist music, such as the methodically menacing “Funambule,” where Stewart and Archibald create a steady and downcast groove while Sneddon stays in the mid-range with single-note playing. It’s an interesting equilibrium which sets Sneddon’s inviting sax versus a measured rhythmic pressure. On the other hand, there is Sneddon’s sprawling, ten-minute “The Woods,” one of two tracks which includes Darley’s trombone. It begins searchingly, with ambient percussion which takes full advantage of the natural reverb at Reid Hall, a large Edinburgh venue where the album was recorded (the hall is generally used for classical music lectures and performances). Gradually, Stewart glides in as “The Woods” progresses, with riffs which supply very low bass frequencies, and Sneddon slips in atmospheric sax. This kind of crossover of jazz and ambient music shares a common thread with German quartet Bohren & Der Club of Gore. Darley brings in a trumpet-like tonality when he enters, and then he and Sneddon swap notes back and forth. “The Woods” heightens during the closing two minutes into a feverish state, where the two horns evoke Albert Ayler’s spirit, and the opus ends as it commences, with Archibald’s reverbed percussion. The ‘purest’ or most standard jazz is Silver’s “Calcutta Cutie,” (from Silver’s 1965 LP, Song for My Father). But in typical Free Nelson Mandoomjazz style, “Calcutta Cutie” (one of two tunes where Archibald uses acoustic grand piano) is twisted into a Silver/Ayler convergence. There are melodic sections which come straight from Silver’s arrangement, and other brief, disconcerting portions which are similar to Ayler or Sun Ra.

Luc Klein—who contributes to four tracks—has worked with the members of Free Nelson Mandoomjazz in various jazz/blues projects. His instrumental talent and ideas are important to the album’s aesthetic. One of the more notable cuts with Klein is the gloomy “LORA,” which Klein penned specially for this record. It’s unclear if “LORA” refers to the military acronym for Long Range Attack, but it is appropriate for this ominous-sounding number which features Darley’s low trombone, Stewart’s dark bass and Archibald’s equally disconsolate percussion. The only brightness is Klein’s trumpet, which rises above the shadows. Klein also participates on Stewart’s groove-funk composition, “Shapeshifter,” fronted by a delicious, repeating bass/drums groove. Here as on other cuts, the doom metal quotient is restrained and the jazz proportion escalates.

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz conclude with the reverb-soaked “Om,” where Archibald utilizes a 21-stop, 2-manual German pipe organ, which resides in Reid Hall. Archibald builds up a firm, resonating drone on the organ while Stewart furnishes grounded bass notes and Sneddon skates in and out of the arrangement with lingering, often lower-register sax notes. The final 20 seconds is just a cycling noise, like a signal generator rather than something created manually (it’s not easy to figure out, but it seems either from Stewart’s amplified bass or perhaps produced by the organ). Those not accustomed with Free Nelson Mandoomjazz may be disinclined to hear The Organ Grinder. But don’t be afraid to take a chance: for the most part, the result is far less anarchic than the band’s preceding releases.

TrackList: Open the Gate; You Are Old, Father William; Funambule; The Woods; Calcutta Cutie; LORA; Bicycle Day; Inferno Pt. 1; Shapeshifter; Always Go Left in the Maze; Om

—Doug Simpson

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