Vinnie Sperrazza Apocryphal – Hide Ye Idols (2017)

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Hide Ye Idols is the second 2017 release from drummer, composer and bandleader Vinnie Sperrazza, but is actually the follow up to his Apocryphal debut album from three years earlier. By now naming his Loren Stillman/Eivind Opsvik/Brandon Seabrook lineup after that adventurous, highly progressive effort, Sperrazza is practically challenging himself to attain the same artistic heights, as he and his audacious crew once again stretch jazz across multiple red lines and force people to rethink what defines that idiom.

Assigning a name for the Sperrazza’s band is also logical because while they are fulfilling the drummer’s vision, it’s fulfilled by democratic ways and by the way each of them interact with each other. That key interaction is once again between the soulful, straight-ahead expressions of alto saxophonist Stillman and the madman, no-holds-barred guitarist Seabrook and the plucky Sperrazza, which creates the tension and contrast that makes a lot of Sperrazza’s music stand out from even the outside jazz crowd. So, “Family” rides on Stillman’s alto framing the main harmony with some sweetness, but Sperrazza is rebelling hard against that sentiment and Seabrook stakes a middle ground between the two. Yet, the saxophonist and guitarist can combine to make attractive strains, evident on “Bulwer Lytton” where Seabrook’s glistening guitar works hand-in-hand with Stillman.

Opsvik is often made the anchor from both a rhythm are harmony standpoint, freeing up everyone else to chase down their impulses: “St. Jerome” is a deceptive piece, seemingly built around his bouncy, bass riff but Seabrook peppers the proceedings with his jagged, fractured mischief-making and a sci-fi coda.

Some of Sperrazza’s most captivating pieces have no rhythms present at all. Despite the name, “Sun Ra” is way more indicative of Terje Rypdal’s cascading and wandering symphonies than that icon of cosmic jazz, but instead of Rypdal’s eerily beautiful guitar intonations, Stillman, Seabrook and Opsvik (sometimes playing with a bow) emit low-end hypnotic drones that are virtually indistinguishable from each other. Stlllman’s sax echoes swirl around Opsvik’s inquiring bass figures on “Hide Ye Idols,” which — aside from a sonic wall of whoosh — is all there is. Its nebulous, gaunt psyche forms what Sperrazza calls “the emotional center of the album.”

For those looking for the leader to show off his vast capabilities on drums, though, there are plenty of spots that find him at his best on a couple of tracks. “People’s History,” for example, is bracketed by Seabrook’s furious noise music. Otherwise, it conjures up the sound of resistance with a powerful avant-jazz undercurrent generated by Sperrazza’s frantic rhythms that zig and zag but somehow land in the right spots.

The last song “Valentines” is the first one that swings and might have a stronger connection to that other 2017 release Juxtaposition than Apocryphal, but regardless, the rhythm section is real together and Seabrook’s irresistibly eccentric approach carries forward even into this setting.

Hide Ye Idols is now available from Opsvik’s Loyal Label.


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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