Shatner’s Bassoon – Aquatic Ape Priviledge (2013)
I think that there is something about the dreary wet cold British weather which lends itself to a few things, including certain avenues of innovation in music. I envisage groups, coming in out of the wet, soaked through, huddled together bashing out songs about how dull it is, trying to innovate in response to the dreariness outside. Another thing the weather provokes in the British is a certain sense of humour; well, you’ve got to laugh, otherwise you’d cry.
While jazz is a predominantly an American genre, there is a certain experimental British jazz sound, typified by the likes of Led Bib, TrioVD, Roller Trio, Acoustic Ladyland, etc., that Shatner’s Bassoon nestle into really well.
The British sense of humour comes through strong as well. Firstly, the band name themselves after a fictitious part of the brain stimulated by the “made-up” drug “cake“, a reference to cult British satirist Chris Morris’s Brass Eye programme. Next, just look at some of the track names; the almost cynical This Is How You Make A Buck; as well as 50 Ways With Danny Glover, Someone Killed My Panda and Ballad Of Boghead.
The music itself is manic, out there and cacophonous improvised noise-jazz. Opening track, This Is How You Make A Buck begins with electronics with an ominous guitar break before you are hit full in the face by intense sax, bass and drums, frenetic passages follow until you reach a smooth twilight jazz outtro. Altered Beast begins with blaring sax, reminding me of John Zorn, battling with electric guitar a la Mary Halvorson, before settling down into a more bebop style, but one cannot rest on one’s laurels; this is quickly followed by a quiet sax and guitar interlude, before all hell once again breaks loose and tape effects close. 50 Ways With Danny Glover is a minimalist piece, electronics just on the outskirts of hearing, with some guitar string scrapes, with organ joining the party later on and urging the rest to follow as the tension builds.
Overall, this album is a glorious glorious noise. You are not going to be hearing this on Jamie Cullum’s radio show very often if at all, but it is well worth a listen if you are into to this new British wave of experimental jazz.
Favourite tracks: Altered Beast, Breakfast With Boghead, Someone Killed My Panda