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Body Popping Moon Walking Top Rocking by Happy Apple

The first thing that’s evident about this excellent new disc is that Erik Fratzke is using an electric, as opposed to an acoustic, bass. This alone gives Happy Apple a sound that is distinguishable from most groups in the somewhat standard format of bass, drums, and sax free jazz trios. Fratzke doesn't rest on the laurels of being different, however. The bassist uses his instrument to improve the music greatly. On a couple of tunes, like "the barstow sizzler" which opens the disc, Fratzke is content to stay in the background and provide a much needed canvas for his band mates but most of the time he adds greatly to both the rhythm and melody of the eight primarily improvised pieces found here.

Drummer David King and saxophonist Michael Lewis are no slouches themselves. King’s "across the radio dial" drum solo on the previously mentioned opening cut is one of the highlights of body popping moon walking top rocking as is the saxophone work of Lewis which both swirls and sears on the same cut. Equally impressive is how both King and Lewis are able to play very expressively while still interacting closely with each other, as well as Fratzke who also accomplishes this trick. For King this means mutating from pattern based drumming to abstract work and back again and again. Lewis on the other hand possesses the ability to effectively play on a parallel but clearly different plane than his counterparts.

All this adds up to Happy Apple playing music that is both free and danceable. And by dancing, I don't mean that you can sway to this music. Rather you can dance at quick paces to the rather funky beats that the group provides. This material probably won't be playing in dance clubs any time soon but it wouldn't take that much in terms of adjustments to get the music there.

Not that Fratzke, King, and Lewis, a trio that hails from Minneapolis and has been playing together since 1996, should feel pressure to do this. In fact that might be a recipe for disaster; the only snags on body popping moon walking top rocking are when the group throws in too much funk and loses its "out there" edge on a couple of cuts midway through the disc. Still that is only a minor distraction since the group regains its footing before the end of the disc and closes with the wonderful ballad "western motel girl." (I wonder what the title refers to. The obvious just doesn't seem like it would fit.) Happy Apple recorded this disc in August and October of last year and it is a fine statement on just how inventive music can be.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Happy Apple
  • CD Title: Body Popping Moon Walking Top Rocking
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 1999
  • Record Label: No Alternative
  • Musicians: Erik Fratzke (fender bass), David King (drums, cymbals, waterphone), Michael Lewis (soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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