Skerik’s Syncopated Taint Septet, Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA 8/24
What a guy, that Skerik. Just in case anyone in the Tractor was unsure of what was happening the evening his Syncopated Taint Septet took the stage, the tenor saxophonist took it upon himself to keep everyone in the know. Narrating the show, he was the schoolteacher making sure his class was keeping up with the presentation at hand.
The night began with just two of the seven players rocking it out, Joe Doria on his shrill Hammond B-3 and a tight, shrugging John Wicks on drums, delivering escalating beats that collided and crashed and continued forward into a fat twenty-minute jam. When Skerik and gang finally joined their compatriots, Skerik promptly walked up to his mic and announced "Dos." The "Spanish" version of The Duo, I suppose.
The front line of horns took position (up to five at times) and Skerik inquired, "Are you guys ready to syncopate the taint?" The group entered into a New Orleans-inspired tune, Storyville and the street-wise marching bands rolled into one. As SST7 comprised of Seattle-area musicians picked up steam a proud member of the audience shouted out, "West Coast!" When the number came to a close Skerik declared, "Enough syncopation, it’s time to get down with the hoof. The Deerhoof that is." And into a cover of the San Francisco rock band it went.
Perhaps the most striking thing about SST7 is how upbeat it is for one of Skerik’s enterprises. Anyone who’s heard The Dead Kenny Gs or even Critters Buggin’ for that matter knows the man is capable of some dark, distortive discourse. But the union of a trombone, a trumpet and upwards of three saxophones leads to some pretty snappy stuff. More often than not the septet flirted with funk, sharp grooves that rose and fell with head-boppin’ precision.
Going "back to the commerce of taint," the musicians took turns stepping into the limelight, Skerik making some kind of sarcastic statement about the neighborhood Carkeek Park, Wallingford, etc. the particular musician soloing lives in. In fact the show was personal in that way, Skerik providing social commentary about Seattle, little proclamations that would have gone over the heads of anyone unfamiliar with the Emerald City.
SST7 rocked hard on a couple of occasions, Skerik briefly taking on the persona of a sinister car salesman, growling and howling with his sax. The frontman also started rambling in between songs, saying, "Stephen MacIntyre go home and finish your homework." Slow, mellow grooves were repeatedly accelerated by Craig Flory on baritone sax and the ever-present organ. When Skerik announced a set break the crowd protested and Skerik gave in: "You guys are kinky. You like to be peed on. Jazz pee."
At one point the Taint Septet went detective, Pink Panther sounds aided by Steve Moore on a Wurlitzer piano, and then launched into a tune best described as metal jazz, chaotic B-3 while everyone else wailed away. "I Am Not Married and I Have Never Been Married" (that’s the name of the song) carried hints of a carnival, random notes and lots of flute.
Skerik closed the night by saying, "We thank you for coming to the Tractor Tavern on Ballard Ave. We hope you enjoyed our time together in the pre-boutique era." (In the last year or so dozens of specialty shops have opened along Ballard Ave.) The septet then launched into "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, an obvious reminder, that yes, Skerik was at the helm of this ship. The tune journeyed through a place that made you close your eyes and focus on the horns, conjuring pleasant memories from childhood; then again, Gene Wilder always sorta creeped me out.