Mostly Other People Do The Killing – Loafer’s Hollow (2017)

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Stream above is from a prior release, ‘Red Hot.’

Those merry provocateurs of jazz who call themselves Mostly Other People Do The Killing are back literally bigger and badder than before.

Their latest salvo is Loafer’s Hollow (February 24, 2017, Hot Cup Records) — which refers to the burg now called Library, PA — and it’s most closely related to 2013’s Red Hot as MOPDTK once again expands to include Dave Taylor on bass trombone, banjo captain Brandon Seabrook and Steven Bernstein filling in the trumpet chair for the recently departed Peter Evans. Elliott, Jon Irabagon (saxes), Rob Stabinsky (piano) and Kevin Shea (drums) form the nucleus carried over from the last release Mauch Chunk.

In spite of making a lot of good records as a smaller combo, it’s Red Hot that instantly became the go-to MOPDTK disc because the wit they brought with a punk attitude to 1920’s jazz was just downright irresistible. Loafer’s Hollow does much the same damage to prewar jazz, with Bernstein being the obvious wild card because he wasn’t there last time and he plays a wicked slide trumpet to go along with the standard-issue trumpet. But that’s not the only distinction: the boys move forward to the swing era.

Followers of this outlier group know they don’t slavishly follow any formula (oops) so only expect the ideas of Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Benny Goodman to form a rough basis for these tunes, not necessarily a cast iron template for them. As typical of MOPDTK, there’s a freewheeling element on how the songs are played but Elliott also prescribed relatively shorter playing lengths to these performances so that the improvisations are concise and concentrated for extra pop.

And like concentrated detergent, it just takes a little to bring out the vivid colors. The ensemble is busy and animated for a septet on “Hi-Nella” but Bernstein’s hi-flying/nose-diving slide trumpet at the break will grab your attention the most. “Honey Hole” is a feature for Irabagon suggesting Lester Young and his honeyed tenor tone, along with Taylor’s trombone. And what’s that weird noise during Taylor’s turn? Why that’s Seabrook’s electronic hubbub, that’s what. Stabinsky’s twinkling piano sets the pace for “Five (Corners, Points, Forks)” as combined with Irabagon on sopranino sax and Bernstein’s muted trumpet forms a group of high pitched sonorities that’s an approximation of the tinny sound coming from 78s played on a Victrola. Precisely at the halfway mark, the full band enters and so does the full range of sound, bringing density and a well-oiled swing machine.

Sandwiched between these tracks and taking up the bulk of Loafer’s Hollow is the ‘literary suite,’ a series of six Moppa originals dedicated to groundbreaking authors. For the James Joyce tribute “Bloomsburg” Elliott, Seabrook, and Stabinsky hold down the swaying rhythm as everyone else goes free until the latter two are enticed to briefly join the fray. “Kilgore” (for Kurt Vonnegut) is the only track stretching much beyond five minutes, due mainly to Irabagon’s unhinged sopranino sax feature which is matched by Stabinsky’s fully chorded turn that’s inspired by equal parts classical and Cecil Taylor.

The Thomas Pynchon paean “Mason and Dixon” spends its first two minutes with Stabinsky solo before the rest of the gang crash in and fill dramatic turns with hints of Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” “Meridian” (for Cormac McCarthy) vacillates from a serious ballad to out-and-out zany, referencing Huey Lewis’ 80s hit “If This Is It.” The David Foster Wallace inspired “Glen Riddle” begins innocently enough but unexpectedly encounters a free form jazz passage in the form of an improvised duet between Stabinsky and Elliott where Stabinsky quotes the “I Dream of Genie” theme. Never staying on one spot for long, the band returns to its original swing arrangement — a rather nice and punchy arrangement at that — like nothing had ever happened.

However, a lot has happened in the only forty minutes that Loafer’s Hollow runs. And even after several listens you might still be wondering “what the hell just happened?”

Blurring the lines between art and wit for fourteen years running, Mostly Other People Do The Killing are still making absurdity in jazz fun.


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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