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Modern Madness or Tribal Truth? by M.O.T.

There’s certainly room for quirk and humor in Jazz. Those who push the envelope, experiment, and color outside the standard rhythm section and horns formula have a history, albeit one that gets less the kudos than the standard standards. Humor and a skewed individual expressiveness are an even rarer factor. One successful proponent of all just mentioned might be Don Byron. You at least hear him a lot on National Public Radio. Monk had a sense of humor. I don’t hear him all that much on NPR, though. The disc playing on the old Harmon Kardon as I type, one platter by the collective M.O.T., strives for quirk, humor, groove and intelligence. It’s titled Modern Madness or Tribal Truth. Now, taken seriously, that could be heavy (pretentious, too) and, therefore, would have nothing to do with what you’ve read so far. Reading the title and glancing at the black silhouette of the diminutive defecating cow in the left top of the cover, it’s got to be taken with a dash of humor.

The band itself is made of Steven Kamperman (clarinets), Jasper LeClercq (violin), Albert Van Veenendaal (piano, keyboards and samples), Patrick Votrian (tuba), Michael Baird (drums and small percussion) and Ousmane Seye (sabar, djembe and guongoma). Kamperman does all the composing, with two exceptions going to Veenendaal. Just looking at the instrumental line up, you can guess this ain’t your regular jazz outfit. Heck, the tuba’s interesting enough, but what the heck is a sabar? Isn’t that extinct?

The music inside is just as off the path normally beaten. There’s a bouncy percussive quality throughout. Even the slow songs move up and down with the feel of a kid off the Ritalin. The use of tuba as the bottom end reinforces the bounce. The clarinet as lead horn adds an angular, skittering feel also. Violins have a natural angle, so the overall equation moves in a horizontal way. The compositions themselves, by and large, eschew regular jazz trappings. They tend to unfold with one or more instrument until the full palette’s in play, the players bouncing off each other in swirling interplay or just scattering in more directions than you can name . The overall effect is a humorous one. Close the eyes and cartoon ephemera do anthropomorphic acts just below your eyelids. Late Coltrane scraping God from the ceiling, this ain’t. At one point, I swear I thought I heard cats wrestling.

I suspect those fans of the aforementioned Byron, Henry Threadgill (that guy likes tuba!), or maybe some of the projects Han Bennik sticks his sticks into, will find an interest or two. Those looking for something to whistle to while martini sipping should look elsewhere. I take that back. Those are just the sort of people who need a little humor to loosen the old collar.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: M.O.T.
  • CD Title: Modern Madness or Tribal Truth?
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Lop Lop Productions
  • Rating: Three Stars
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