Mole – What Is The Meaning? (2012)

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Photo: Fernando Aceves

The keyboardist is a Mexican expatriate living in Prague, the drummer is an Argentinian expatriate living in Mexico, the acoustic bassist is a Mexican still in Mexico and the guitarist is a guy from New York. Together, this quartet makes progressive jazz that is about as diversely influenced as the countries of origin and residence might suggest. Mole (pronounced Mo-lay), as this quartet is called, sprung up out of the rapport developed between the keyboardist Mark Aanderud and drummer Hernan Hecht about eight years ago. Eventually, their ideas became too big to be performed by just two and eventually they expanded to a quartet. What Is The Meaning? is the product of this quartet that also includes David Gilmore on guitar and Jorge “Luri” Molina on standup bass.

What’s readily apparent from listening to What Is The Meaning? is that this is a jazz fusion band, but one that has earned a space apart from other fusion bands. Oh yes, they pull heavily from the jazz realm; these guys are jazz musicians, after all. But they also draw from the rock end, and there is where you find the distinctions. These gentlemen draw their inspirations not from the classic rocks bands, but from some of the more forward thinking rock and jazz-rock bands making some of their best music today or very recently: Radiohead, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mars Volta, E.S.T., Pat Metheny Group and the like. (Aanderud, it should be noted, appeared on The Mars’ Volta Octahedron album).

Emblematic of the record as a whole, the opening track “PB” suggests many streams of music without dwelling into any one. After a pensive, almost foreboding freeform start, a groove gets established (a good, modern groove is one fairly persistent hallmark of this band), and the modal motifs provide the launching pad for Gilmore’s Montgomery enunciations, followed by Aandured’s thoughtful Wurlitzer lead lines. By contrast, a classical mood pervades “Trees And The Old New Old Ones,” no doubt helped along by the guest appearance of Dorota Barova’s cello.

Hecht is very hip to modern drumming techniques, as evidenced by the appearance of a couple of drum’n’bass tracks. The first one of those, “Stones,” is used as the backdrop for a dreamy, post-rock song, Aanderud’s reverberating single lines clearly setting down the melodic markers. On “Flour Tortilla Variation” (YouTube below), Hecht’s kinetic beat is the song, a steady but merciless groove the other three exploit to the hilt.

The newer members get plenty of stage, too. As previously stated, Gilmore brings a jazz swing to “PB.” On “Greenland,” he engages in interesting unison line with Aanderud and peels off to produce a funky solo with a little bite to it. His most charged moment comes on the tense, urgent funk of “Grubenid,” inspiring Aanderud to follow with an intense electric piano solo of his own. Molina’s main function as a part of that organic beat machine with Hecht can’t be overstated, but on “Trees,” he also gets to showcase his abilities with a bow in the intro and a precise and understated grace in the mode of Charlie Haden later on during his plucked solo.

Mole, the quartet that grew from a duet, makes great use of all four parts. With What Is The Meaning?, they make the case that you don’t have to play modern instruments or give up traditional principles of good musicianship to make very modern music.

What Is The Meaning? goes on sale May 15, on Rare Noise Records.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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