MSG – Tasty! – Plus Loin

by | May 16, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

MSG – Tasty! – Plus Loin PL4537, 48:53 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ***1/2:

(Rudresh Mahanthappa – alto saxophone, producer; Chander Sardjoe – drums; Ronan Guilfoyle – acoustic bass)

What is MSG? Most people think of the food additive monosodium glutamate, commonly referred to as MSG. Heavy metal fans might recall the Michael Schenker Group. In this case, MSG is a global jazz trio comprising New York City-based alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, Parisian drummer Chander Sardjoe and Dubliner bassist Ronan Guilfoyle. While a conceptual foundation is a major part of the MSG approach and is demonstrated on the group’s debut recording, Tasty!, it does not get in the way of the music, which has a deconstructionist and reconstructionist methodology. Anyone who has heard Mahanthappa’s previous outings, such as his collaborative effort Apex (2010) with Bunky Green, will have an inkling of the cerebral creativity on display throughout this 48-minute release. In keeping with the threesome’s multi-continental aspects, the musicians mesh together a wide range of influences which include traditional jazz, Indian/Carnatic inspirations and the M-Base (or macro-basic array of structured extemporization) theory espoused by Steve Coleman and others. The result is head music which has a solid groove.

– recorded in 2006 but not issued until this year – boldly builds on ideas presented during an Irish 2005 concert date. The eight tracks – five by Mahanthappa and three by Guilfoyle – have explorative personalities and feature multifaceted melodies and rhythms where everyone generally plays the melodies and rhythm simultaneously and each instrument shares space equally, although Mahanthappa’s gritty, firm sax usually is at the forefront of the album’s mix.

Mahanthappa’s compositions tend to be the ones which filter several facilitating factors. The ironically concise “Groove Band Rebellion” was penned a few years ago when the jam band scene (think Phish or Medeski, Martin & Wood) had started to become derivative and systemized. This piece is meant as a poke in the ribs and a droll sendup. There is a basic funk undercurrent while drums and sax elaborate a knotty negotiation on top which constantly changes and moves. “Groove Band Rebellion” may be too abstract for some, but Mahanthappa applies some tricky sax lines which maintain interest. The evocative elegy “Chant” delves deeply into Carnatic complexity with a suitable drone which pulls from classical Indian music, although the arrangement steers away from anything which echoes sitar or tabla. Mahanthappa states the intention is to “integrate my ancestry and not use something as obvious.”

Guilfoyle – like Mahanthappa and Sardjoe – has long been informed by Steve Coleman’s looming authority. Guilfoyle has dedicated entire live sets to Coleman’s angular music in Irish pubs. The M-Base strategy reverberates throughout Guilfoyle’s pieces. Opener “Blackjack!” and the lanky “Installation” both pivot and focus on elements which are reminiscent of Greg Osby’s or Coleman’s advanced directions and the two tunes also showcase Guilfoyle’s intricate bass contributions. Guilfoyle’s fascination with south Indian music is obliquely incorporated into the swirling “Sucking Stones,” which is highlighted by a slinky bass groove, bright drum work and spiky sax lines.

Tasty! is an album which requires close attention and a palate for off-centered and idiosyncratic music which is open-ended and unorthodox. Even Guilfoyle’s fulcrumed tune called “Traditional” takes liberties with the notion of what tradition may mean to most listeners.
1. Blackjack!
2. Sucking Stones
3. Installation
4. Guile
5. Groove Band Rebellion
6. Traditional
7. Chant
8. Waltz for the Anatomically Correct

— Doug Simpson

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