Openin' Flowa' is the third in a series of three debut CD's from the improvisational group Wet Paint, led by percussionist/vocalist Douglas Elliot. This CD is made up of material chosen from nearly four years of live performances at various venues in and around New York City. Elliot is accompanied regularly by bassist Don Pate and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter (trumpet, flute, saxophone, and clarinet). Various other musicians join the group on guitar, piano, and drums.
All of the pieces included on this CD were composed by Elliot, and all contain lengthy vocals. Listeners looking for the thoughtfully humorous jazz lyrics in traditional song form characterized by Ben Sidran or Mose Allison will not find the same approach in Elliot's music. I would suspect that much of Elliot's free verse lyrical work is improvised along with its musical accompaniment.
The CD notes point out that Elliot does not rehearse the other musicians beforehand in order to capture a truly improvised performance. Though the musicians do not play 'out' in a harmonically free sense, the lack of structure ultimately means that the band rarely strays from a moody, relaxed groove. On some cuts, such as "2-1-3", the band cooks up a simmering, funky beat that works quite well. Though Elliot and Pate provide a solid footing for the band, the free approach has its limits, with the band occasionally searching for a common direction. Still, there are plenty of good moments where soloists and the rhythm section create memorable music.
This band's work should provide ample listening pleasure to fans of improvisational music, particularly those who enjoy a free interplay of lyrics and music, but it will be less satisfying for fans of traditionally charted and rehearsed jazz.