Stinkhorn — Tunguska
((Not on label) CD002, 2001, CD)
by Jeff Melton, 2006-05-01:Stinkhorn was one of Seattle’s most challenging modern jazz quartets, blending John Zorn style motifs and English fusion approaches. Strong comparisons to George Cartwright and Curlew can be made across the group’s two studio recordings. The band’s first self-released recording is a balanced set of compositions and collaborations by all members of the band. Guitarist Brian Heaney was perhaps the most visible presence in the group along with saxophonist Michael Monhart. By navigating between heavy jazz-rock moods and grounded by a capable low end rhythmic structure the band established grooves and allowed for natural improvisation to ooze out. Monhart’s “Spotless Pots” begins with an ambient mode for his tentative free flights before the ensemble gradually adds angst and sonic frustration. Heaney’s “Little One” is relies on a prominent bebop phrase and captures an air of British jazz-fusion that many will relate to. Drummer Howard Ouchi’s contribution, “Otamura” is a melodic duet between percussion and sax, with sax carrying the weight of the lead line against lead guitar fade ins. Closing out the disc is a funky piece of rock entitled “Reasons” where the group interplay is especially strong with Monhart’s frantic leads recalling the fire of the late Elton Dean’s spirited delivery. The quartet’s follow-up CD was a strong step forward further consolidating their unique fusion identity. The songwriting is better defined as heard from the opening title track where both Heany and Monhart’s unison lines leads a no holds barred into a class restrained main section. Monhart’s blistering timing is good as the band propels itself into realm occupied by Phil Miller’s In Cahoots. Heany’s piece “Sonny’s Delight” (assumed to be a tribute to Sonny Rollins) contrasts well with Monhart’s compositions such as “Awa Nights” and “Mongolian Pig Driver”. The first track is a lush tone poem while the latter song relies on some overdriven guitar cadenza to phase into some brash woodwind based controlled chaos. Bassist John Morris supplies three memorable pieces as well of which “Summer Salt” and “Ancient Baby” hold my attention. The former composition is characterized by a strong bass line that lays the best ground work for Heaney and Monhart to mine on top of. “Ancient Baby” is also an intense piece of angst as the quartet’s improvisational level gets further out but Monhart’s Rollins-like play keeps the piece in check. In closing, the group was one of the great local discoveries for the first Progman Cometh festival in 2001 performing much of this material. They disbanded to reform as Sunship in 2003 and are still playing in Seattle today.
by Jon Davis, 2002-04-01:Back in #20 I reviewed the debut by this Seattle jazz group. I’m happy to say that this second release, Tunguska, is every bit as good as the first, and maybe better. Stinkhorn’s personnel and basic sound remain unchanged: loose jazzy grooves with wild guitar and sax offset by freer, more chaotic sections. One thing they do is lay down a driving, slightly off-kilter groove with Howard Ouchi’s drums and John Morris’s bass, then top it with a straggly unison line between Michael Monhart’s sax and Brain Heaney’s distorted guitar. When they’re done with the head, it’s off into solo territory, and when these guys solo, they don’t go for tons of notes spewed out in dexterous, hyper-rehearsed scales. They work their ways to the outskirts of the instruments for maximum intensity, not afraid of dissonance at all. Always unpredictable and never content to stick to convention, Stinkhorn embody what I like most in jazz. In spite of the often-mangled guitar sounds, the music doesn’t really resemble rock in the least. Ouchi’s drumming in particular is much looser and freer than most of what you hear these days, allowing the rhythm to be a matter of group consensus rather than everyone sticking with his law. Tracks tend to be short and flow together, reminding me of Soft Machine back around 7. Soft Machine is probably a good comparison: take that band and swap guitar for the keyboards, add some chaos, and you’re in Stinkhorn’s ballpark, but not in a derivative way.
Related artist(s): Stinkhorn
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Wendy Carlos - Rediscovering Lost Scores Volume One & Two – Writing about music is never really easy, but writing about music that was created for a purpose other than just listening is even harder. The pieces on these two discs were recorded as background... (2006) » Read more
Greg Segal - A Play of Light and Shadow, The Old Familiar Place & Tales of Today – With his own studio and plenty of time on hand to play and experiment, all kinds of things can be committed to tape (or whatever medium), some fully arranged, some more like embryonic fragmentary... (2007) » Read more