Mostly Other People Do The Killing – Paint (2017)

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Through ten albums, jazz outlaws Mostly Other People Do The Killing has been able to keep things fresh while retaining their gleeful, provocateur persona, mainly by expanding and reducing the size of the ensemble to exploit new interactions. Moppa Elliott, the bassist and linchpin behind this merry band of jazz misfits, has rejiggered the formula again for their eleventh, Paint, due out October 20, 2017 from Elliott’s own Hot Cup Records.

Following along with another template, the title of the album is taken from yet another Pennsylvania town you never heard of, but more notably, MOPtK is now reduced to a horn-less trio, comprising of just Elliott, drummer Kevin Shea and piano player Ron Stabinksy, making Elliott and Shea the only performers to appear on every release. As always, the post-modern compositions and gonzo arrangements of Elliott stays true to the original spirit of his brainchild, the number of co-conspirators be damned.

The big revelation here lies behind the drum kit: Shea has consistently been a primary protagonist, his scraggy style of drumming alternately pushing against the traditional procession of his band mates and leading them off the mainstream jazz cliff. In a trio setting, it becomes much more apparent. That’s why I somehow got the feeling at the beginning of “Yellow House” that this straightforward jazz strut would eventually go off the rails, a la Don Pullen. It does, but the charge toward freedom is led by Shea, not Stabinsky, and eventually it regains some of its composure. Shea’s ever-hustling drums power “Green Briar” through a three-minute sprint. The multi-faceted “Black Horse” is held together by connected motifs and just sheer exuberance oozing from Stabinsky but made potent by forcefulness and crisp swing of Shea.

“Orangeville” is firmly grounded by Elliot and Stabinsky’s left hand while the other ‘half’ of the trio plays loosely. Elliott takes charge of the melodic theme initially for “Plum Run” before Stabinsky counters with delightfully theatrical statements.

The boys finally slow down to a breezy waltz for “Golden Hill,” or so it seems: Shea gets restless and eventually unbinds himself amid Stabinsky’s flourishing cascades of chords. And “Whitehall” is a single motif that’s played over in different harmonizations each go around, leading to surprises at every turn.

MOPDTK does a very rare cover — the entirety of Blue excluded — to take on a Duke Ellington composition that happens to share a name with another Pennsylvania town. “Blue Goose” finds Stabinsky playing much like Ellington, but also has a couple of Elliott features (one plucked and the other bowed) and Shea performing falling-down-the-stairs drumming dramatics.

After demonstrating that “more is more” on last winter’s septet release Loafer’s Hollow, Moppa Elliot makes “less is more” the mantra for Paint. Which only goes to show that size really doesn’t matter with Mostly Other People Do The Killing; only gumption does.


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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