The follow-up to 2010s’ Betweenwhile by Bacteria To Boys involved a transition from Darius Jones to Jon Irabagon in the sax role, but also a transition for its chief, Mike Pride, too. As a new dad, the drummer, composer and bandleader has made next his BTB record reflect an altered new outlook that comes with being a new parent. The event of his son’s birth provided the spark for a new set of compositions, but settling down into the family-building business hadn’t settled down Pride’s music. If anything, it’s done the opposite.
The sophomore effort Birthing Days has its share of mainstream jazz and aberrant jazz as before but skews toward the latter side. With help from Irabagon, as well as holdovers in keyboardist Alexis Marcelo and standup bassist Peter Bitenc, Pride seems ever more emboldened and make music that’s multi-directional, shifting from inside to outside and across lots of tempos, the music is elusive, moving off a spot just as soon as you think you’ve got it pinned down.
“79 Beatdowns of Infinite Justice, the” works in that manner, leading the listener through a series of sketches at varying paces and restraint (or lack thereof). Marcelo plays a synthesizer, but interesting, that does nothing to move the music away from jazz they way he’s playing it. “Birthing Days” is even more intriguing: an 80s styled synthesizer is used to render a pop motif, but the Boys can’t help but to abstract it up. Jason Stein guests on bass clarinet and gives a spirited solo, and Pride maintains a great feel for groove even as he’s going down different paths at once, a trait found time and again on this album.
Even when the song appears to be relatively straight-ahead, Pride is subtly subverting it: “Brestwerp” employs a swinging polyrhythm like Elvin Jones, but then moves into a hard rock groove then quickly back to swing. Marcelo’s piano sets the angular mood for the tune as Irabagon counters with agitated lines. “Lullaby For Charlie” is where Pride displays deep sentimentalism with no irony. Instead, it’s a comely, gentle 3/4 number with a nocturnal mood. Irabagon enhances it by playing his alto both sweetly and impishly and Marcelo makes his piano flow majestically.
Tenor saxophonist Jonathan Moritz also makes a couple of guest appearances, first with Stein on “CLAP,” where both increasingly break out of convention into free jazz, and on “Fuller Place,” a number where Moritz is trading four with Irabagon.
The ending number “Motiaon” is apparently Pride’s ode to an important forbear on the drums, Paul Motian. Pride carefully follows down the path Motian once blazed, propagating beautiful colors from the kit, but only at the beginning and end of the song; Irabagon and Bitenc engage in a ruminative repartee in between.
Mike Pride amps up the fun, thirst for adventure and gumption for his personal statement . Birthing Days. It’s an evolutionary step Bacteria To Boys, not a clean departure, but a solid step in the right direction. He took a good thing in BTB and made it better still.