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Free Nelson Mandoomjazz — The Organ Grinder
(RareNoise RNR, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-01-02

The Organ Grinder Cover art

With The Organ Grinder, Free Nelson Mandoomjazz expands their sound further from its base of sax, bass, and drums by featuring more guests than before and varying arrangement structures. Rebecca Sneddon’s sax introduces the set with a mournful melody which mutates into a sludgy fuzz bass riff, presenting a somewhat minimalist version of “doomjazz.” Colin Stewart (bass) and Paul Archibald (drums) are still on board, and plodding heavy beats still figure prominently in the band’s style. It’s with the second track, “You Are Old, Father William,” that the sound starts drifting — right out of the gate, there’s a trumpet (Luc Klein) sparring with Sneddon’s sax as an equal partner, and the playful harmonies bring the piece to life. Five of the album’s 11 tracks feature either Klein or trombonist Patrick Darley or both, and the expanded palette serves to enhance the other tracks by contrast. Archibald contributes occasional keyboards (piano and organ) as well. “Calcutta Cutie,” with its piano ostinato, almost sounds like a throwback to mid-60s post-bop jazz, though the occasional free sections stray somewhat from that era’s norms. “Shapeshifter” is another tune that breaks the doomjazz mold, with a sprightly 9/8 rhythm and trumpet/sax harmonies. It comes off like the odd-meter workout that Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard never did. Archibald’s organ shows up in the final cut, “Om,” with long, slowly changing chords that provide a church-organ drone for meditative chords on the bass and squawks on the sax. It’s a powerful and fitting ending to an album of contrasts and extremes.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Free Nelson Mandoomjazz

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