Zony Mash, Mt. Tabor Theater, Portland, OR – 7/23
Zony Mash certainly doesn’t perform as many live shows as they used to. Their last live album was even dubbed “Farewell Shows” and they were supposed to be just that. But a small Friday night crowd in Portland, OR was lucky enough to witness Wayne Horvitz and Zony Mash with horns (including Skerik) get up on the stage and play some incredible music. The evening was a memorable one as this very large version of Zony Mash was obviously well-rehearsed and played tightly through a multitude of complex tunes. There was even a little humor thrown in right before the band played Tim Young’s “Withdrawal Symptoms,” Wayne introduced the song and said that Skerik might know something about this one. But overall, this was a set about a bigger band nailing tune after tune as well as exploring some excellent improvisation.
The large band consisted of Wayne Horvitz on keyboards and a litany of effects pedals, four horn players (sax, trumpet, trombone, and Skerik on a few different horns throughout the night), a guitar player, a bassist, and a drummer. Traditionally, Zony Mash is a much smaller four-piece band, so hearing this larger version run through the jazzy arrangements so tightly was impressive. While the band does play funky, danceable interludes, they are definitely more harmonically complex than most west coast “jazz-funk” bands. The drumming was extremely tight and my only complaint about the evening was that the bass was simply not loud enough. I like to really feel the bass and it was barely even audible compared to the rest of the players. In light of the excellent playing, this was easy to overlook.
It was interesting to see Skerik play as a member of the band and not the leader. Even in McTuff where Joe Dorian is supposed to be the “leader” of the band, Skerik often goes off and takes the limelight. But on this night, he respectfully played his part reading the sheet music along with everyone else on the composed sections. Of course, he was let loose to solo multiple times over the evening and did so energetically. At one point the band was vamping on a particular lead, then there was an open space for the guitarist to fill. He soloed in a traditional sense at first, but his solo sections became progressively louder and weirder until they devolved into a sort of white noise peak. Wayne also had several funky build ups as well as spacey soundscapes. The crowd listened attentively and cheered enthusiastically at the end of the set for this rare live performance. Wayne needs to take this larger version of Zony Mash on the road more often as well as into the studio.