“This album is about responding to our modern world in a way that is reflectively critical yet frenetically joyous,” Dan Rosenboom says. “Maelstrom and cognitive dissonance are everywhere, online and on the news. People cherry-pick what they want to believe and discount factual data. Inequity is rampant. In the face of such overwhelming chaos, turning toward our inner humanity is a powerful move. I want to take all that emotional fuel, and turn it into something creative, spontaneous, and beautiful.”
Trumpeter-composer-producer-entrepreneur Rosenboom is considered one of Los Angeles’ top musical pioneers. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times dubbed him “a musician dedicated to exploration and expression, regardless of anyone’s imagined boundaries.” His cross-genre penchant has had him work with John Williams, Hans Zimmer and Josh Grogan as well as many personal projects including Balkan jazz-rock group, PLOTZ, and socio-political protest band, Burning Ghosts. His need is not lost on the wide-ranging mix of high-quality musicians assembled here either: Jeff Babko (keyboards), Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak, and Zach Danziger (drums), Jimmy Johnson, Tim Lefebvre and Jerry Watts Jr. (bass), Rosenboom’s longtime mate Gavin Templeton and jazzer David Binney on saxophones…the list goes on, you get the picture.
“Mr. Lizard Said” has Danziger hurling himself around the kit and around Babko’s fat synth bassline as Rosenboom horn-scats some smoothed-off angles, sometimes doubling up with Babko, sometimes returning to a motif. Special energy between them.
If God gives you lemons…riff hard. “Lemonade” high-density rocks. Danzinger again bringing power, as the band make deep, thick saxy Sabbath and Tim Conley goes all Maggot Brained on us.
“Pushed to the Edge of Ideas by Dispassionate Bias-Algorithm Bots” is definitely the best track title of 2020. Musically, it has an early-mid 90s vibe about it, like a slightly less algorithm-obsessed M-base or something. The space created for solos by Novak and Watts Jr is inviting, enthusing and both Templeton and Rosenboom take full advantage. Rosenboom’s solo is so well-paced and deliberate, creating high drama and continued expectation. Love it when the horns come back together to coda.
Expansive and hovering with very little projection is “Still”. +6 minutes of sparse glam space jazz backing to a deft, pure, heartfelt Rosenboom’s slow exploration of feeling and location. Gorgeous.
“Heliopteryx” is wild and exuberant; washes, scrapes, grinds and burps support Danzinger’s massacre of his kit as fierce riffing horns lead to both Rosenboom and Templeton letting rip. Kinda art jazz prog metal, kinda.
“Nebulounge” (another great title) is tight n funky with Rosenboom a bit Miles and Templeton nice and lyrical. Feels like they’re jamming but keeping it tidy.
“Apes in Rapture” (yet another great title!) is a joyful, big band, 70s space trekking TV soundtrack with a touch of the Zappas about it. It’s so good-natured yet classy in its captivating swells and releases, its difficult time changes. High glamour too; it must be that Hollywood influence…
The jazzy IDM-aware “Forget What You Know” has Danziger battling some robotic square fuzz as first Templeton then Rosenboom heroically duck n dive. The serpentine “Green Moon” appears to effortlessly meander until Novak’s explosive work is finally wrapped up tight by those damned snake horns.
Chugging dampened metal guitar throbs “Obsidian Butterfly” along. Swinging horn riffs come and go. Haunted, chaotic sax. Distorted, delayed guitars wail. Scales occasionally head east. Epic.
Novak gets very busy during the final adventure, “Drowning On The High Ground”. Ganged, tentacle-like lines explore the higher ground, comping and dancing keys take over, subduing Novak briefly before Rosenboom stands proud, tentacles return and our musical journey gently comes to an end.
There’s A LOT going on here. The musicianship is faultless throughout. And, yes, genres are blurred and envelopes are pushed but it never feels forced or that the blurring-and-pushing is its main purpose. It feels spontaneous, euphoric, characterful and always like the musicians are having lots of fun; together. That’s a pretty healthy response to this chaotic, dissonant modern world, I would’ve thought.