Formed between tours in his hometown of Seattle, and starting as a two horn, organ and drums quartet, the group quickly grew to a septet as more and more horns were added. All the members of the group are Seattle natives, with a collective résumé that includes playing with artists such as Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz, Robin Holcomb, Eyvind Kang, Julian Priester and Medeski, Martin and Wood, so it’s obvious, from the get-go, that these are players with hands in many musical pots. Skerik has called what the group does "punk jazz", and it’s about as good a description for this genre-bending group as any.
This is exciting stuff, with basic forms being laid down to allow the entire group to collectively improvise. While there are plenty of terrific solos from individual players, much of the music is of the "everyone solos and nobody solos" philosophy. Shifting dynamics take the band from subtle passages to loud, cacophonous moments of seeming confusion. But the group always manages to pull things back together.
Every member of the septet is an accomplished player, but one of the highlights of the band is trombonist/electric pianist Steve Moore, who has some kind of whammy effect on his Wurlitzer electric piano that allows it to bend and weave in ways that I haven’t heard before.
Compositions are contributed by various members of the septet, with a couple of improvised tunes starting the set. "Freakus Piniatus" begins as a freeform musical call to arms; slowly the band begins to coalesce and Wicks lays down a hip hop rhythm under Doria’s swelling bass line, signaling that we are, indeed, in "Philadelphia". The horns seem to ebb and flow, and the communication between the players as the groove shifts to a double-time drum & bass passage is impressive.
Sly Stone’s "Runnin’ Away" is a beautiful ensemble piece that leads directly into "Too Many Toys", which starts with a go-go rhythm before moving into saxophone and trumpet solos that are reminiscent of Miles’ jungle funk of the mid-70s.
The album closes with "Morphine", which begins with a metal passage that quickly moves into a swinging minor blues, featuring baritone sax and organ solos that take things up a notch before the theme is restated and the tune collapses in on itself.Exciting and innovative, Skerik’s Syncopated Taint Septet is a boundary-breaking album that will appeal to fans of groove-based yet freely improvised music.