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Published: 2003/09/28
by Pat Buzby

Dime Grind Palace – Sex Mob

Ropeadope Records 93187-2

One of the perks of patrolling the checkpoints is seeing a
genre take shape, and that's what's happened with the stream of instrumental
releases that have crossed my desk in the last year or so. Many, such as
this Sex Mob release, have been on Ropeadope, who have sneakily established
themselves as one of the more consistently interesting imprints of the new

Sex Mob exemplify the second (or third?) generation of "downtown" jazz,
NYC-based, semi-avant, and post-MMW. As with most jazz, it all starts with
the rhythm section. While some of us weren't watching, it seems that
quasi-funk/hip hop grooves, played on bass and drum gear that could have
been stashed in Van Gelder's studio since 1963 (anyone remember when the
electric bass was cutting edge?), have become as prominent a characteristic
of new jazz as screeching saxophones. Bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny
Wollesen get a few chances for rapid walks, but it's the lurid, mildly
Headhunters-esque slow grooves, especially the title track, which
distinguish themselves the most.

On their first all-original release following discs devoted to material such
as James Bond themes, Sex Mob show themselves to be shrill but fun-loving
pastiche artists. The prominent influences are Carla Bley and the AACM
school, especially the more humorous sides of both. Aided by producer
Scotty Hard, the band gets kudos for inventive record-making; you need to
keep an eye on the CD player to be sure which track you're on.

The only issue, as with so much of this jamband-era jazz, is that there
tends to be lots of archness, lots of skronk, lots of
calling-attention-to-itself analog gear, but not so much in the way of
arresting melodies or genuine emotion. On this subject, it's telling that
guest trombonist Roswell Rudd gets as much solo space here as
trumpeter/bandleader Steven Bernstein or saxophonist Briggan Krauss. Rudd,
an important voice on those old Bley projects, has one of those tones that
say as much as most people do with their notes, a sound which makes the most
angular melodies personable, and his turns in the spotlight leave the
strongest impressions that this disc has to offer.

Still, it's pleasing to see bands like this getting by with the support of
such labels as Ropeadope and such musical schools as the jamband world.
With time and nurturing, perhaps Bernstein may find himself offering the
same service to the jazzbos of 2033 that Rudd does for Sex Mob.

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