Sunday, March 06, 2005


In anticipation of Jackalope's upcoming performance at the CBGB Lounge May 8th, ritualistic I got hold of this CD of theirs just to check out how they hold up in a studio setting as opposed to in the flesh 'n all. Actually I caught these guys on an earlier cybercast sometime last year or the year before or something like that and enjoyed what I heard, and thought a CD of theirs would make a fine addition to the various CDs I have in my collection from a number of groups that have played the Lounge's Sunday (and soon-to-be-Wednesday PM as well!) avant/freestyle music series. If I must get fetishistic (?) about things like this like I do with various obsessive/compulsive modes in my life, then what better than to categorize/document a truly vibrant scene that is happening in the here and now rather'n thirty years back which is nice and all, but more or less daid as a doornail which doesn't mean it shouldn't be studied under a microscope, but then again since this is happening AS WE SPEAK it's a lot easier gathering information about this stuff plus you don't have to get your hands dirty!!

Anyway, Jackalope are a trio consisting of John Abercrombie on guitar, Loren Stillman on saxophones and Bob Meyer on drums. And sure, there are a whole slewwa these gtr/horn/drums aggros that have been playing around in jazz most notably at clubs such as CBGB or one of their next door performance spaces for quite some time, but Jackalope ain't yer typical BLUE HUMANS blast-it-all-out freespatter noisetwist threesome nohow! They're not even Tertiary Trio (scroll down for a review) let alone Storm (ditto) or whatever other avant gtr trio you can think of offhand. No, Jackalope are much smoother'n those aforementioned noisebusters and they should be considerin' that they have none other than John Abercrombie at their helm.

You may remember Abercrombie as this seventies-era jazzguy who was really big on the ECM label with their sorta chamber/snooze avant gardeities transmorphed into gnu age paradiddles music that certainly didn't thrill me to the quick the way various other seventies music did during those fun and cheap days. Other'n a few early avanties of worth in the ECM catalog (Circle's PARIS CONCERT and the Marion Brown thingie) not much that Swedish label put out has interested me. (Of course, I'm not talking about such worthies as a 1961 Jimmy Giuffre 3 offering I never heard, but I am talking about all those records with the sweet and lilting front covers featuring out-of-focus snapshots of wilting petunias and the like.) Heck, I even picked up a Jack DeJohnette's Directions album from '76 with Abercrombie on guitar last August whilst in the state of New York and played side one to general yawns before the turntable broke (no foolin'!), thinking that Abercrombie's entire career must've been nothing but stodgy fancy "jazz" guitar pickings custom made for people who hold it in on purpose because they can't use a strange toilet, and you can BET that this disque in question has been filed to the back probably ne'er to be unleashed from the collection again lest I need to use it for some future reference, which I doubt.

But you gotta admit that a lotta things that fall within the cheap gutter magic o' CBGB have a certain dinge rubbed off on a lotta the performers there, and perhaps this is why Jackalope surprisingly don't sound like Terje Rypdal and Bjorn Blorklyndnyl playing soft and schmoozy paens to puff pastry with a sound so clear that you'd swear they were chumming it up in your own personal sauna. Taking a cue from the avant/chamber innovator of it all Giuffre, Jackalope plays it experimental and brainy true, yet its also kinda tough'n funky even with Abercrombie eliciting yummy gtr-lines (kinda like what Jim Hall mighta sounded like had he developed on the style used on that Gunther Schuller Third Stream elpee done with Ornette back in '61) while Meyer does a nice blues/free playing that sounds like Billy Higgins as Stillman plays in a pre-Jarman/Mitchell-style closer to Ornette when he was on Atlantic. "Skippy" is how I referred to it in the magazine last issue and I think it still applies here.

These guys even sound original on their cover of Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin's "Long Ago And Far Away" (and frankly, I don't care for all them "respected" songwriters of the far past at all unlike some of you probably do, but here they sound like they might as well be Ornette fans for all I know!) plus the originals aren't any slouch either, with titles such as "Convolution," "Skin," "Chicken," and "On The Loose" proving that Jackalope's slumming around in the confines of the Bowery certainly has rubbed off on their musical acumen as well as toughened 'em up a bit as well!

My fave here hasta be the closer, "Shades of Grey" which, although written by Stillman, is nothing but double-tracked Abercrombie playing this medieval-meets-outer-space melody that reminds me of some of the solo Sun Ra things on clavinet that have the same introverted crunch on my fragile being. Sniff blubber!

Actually, Jackalope sound a lot more in-groove on this CD than when I tuned them in at the CBGB Lounge way back when. Then they seemed more restrained, sparse/spacey, freer and perhaps had more in common with ECM 1971 than that label's regrettable gnu age success story days. And although this ain't a Sonny Sharrock barn-buster jazzrock slamfest worthy of MONKEY POCKIE BOO it doesn't mean it's totally worthless. It's a proverbial sleeper that'll make a good bargain bin find for you in a few year's time, or if you're rich try snatching it up on ebay cheep like I did. And it's a pretty good avant-trio offering even if the label (Challenge) ain't the same one that released all those great surf/garage singles back inna sixties!

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