Desertion Trio, with Jamie Saft – Midtown Tilt (2018)

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Desertion (2016) served as an outlet for progressive guitarist Nick Millevoi to indulge in his inner Neil Young. It was an experience gratifying enough for a second go-around less than two years later. Midtown Tilt, coming forth on January 19, 2018 via Shhpuma/Clean Feed Records, is credited this time to the ‘Desertion Trio’ and once again, organ maestro Jamie Saft is added to make this trio a de facto quartet.

Instrumental rock is called “post-rock” nowadays, but Desertion’s combination of Crazy Horse rough edges, surf music, psych blues and Western movie soundtrack leanings is truly a throwback to lyric-less rock of the 60s, even if the styles informing this music might have never been quite blended this way. With fellow Many Arms member Johnny DeBlase on bass and Mostly Other People Do The Killing/Talibam! drummer Kevin Shea also on board, you’d expect some jazz to creep into the music. It doesn’t, really, but there are often hints of that improvisational personality found in any jazz musician.

The jazziest guy here is not its leader Millevoi, as you might expect, but Shea. Opting to mainly groove along and letting the melody do the talking with Saft’s big Stax B3 riffs by his side, Millevoi often defers to Shea to provide the adrenaline and tempo direction from below. That’s the template that defines numbers like the title track, “Numbers Maker” and “Jai Alai Noon.” “It’s a Hard World for Little Things” is an exception, where the drums free flows with the guitar and organ.

Oftentimes though, Shea’s percussive convulsions presage Millevoi’s own lively brainstorms when the latter steps out from the rhythm guitar role into the lead. You hear him work up to some urgent blues-rock solos on “Midtown Tilt”, “The Myna Bird” and especially during “The Carideon.” A little bit of Dick Dale tremolo action appears throughout “Numbers Maker.”

None of the great talent assembled here gets stretched near their limits for this Desertion Trio excursion, but this diversion from denser and intenser stuff is for an altogether different mood. And when that mood strikes, Midtown Tilt is the record to play.

*** Download Midtown Tilt from Bandcamp ***

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