Andrew Binder’s Conspiracy Deliracy
Bassist and composer Andrew Binder leads his spirited septet in a program of original compositions at the intersection of modern jazz and pop with tongue-in-cheek references to today’s era of fake news and outlandish theories. The ensemble features trumpeter Justin Dyar, saxophonist/flutist Brian Stark, trombonist Frank Niemeyer, Brazilian guitarist Jose Gobbo, keyboardist Kurt Reeder, and drummer Maxwell Osawa. While the concepts are generally hilarious, the music is vital and invigorating.
“Squatch Watch,” nodding to the crazy notion of bigfoot, is a mid-tempo reharmonized contrafact of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” with quotes mixed in from Wayne Shorter’s “Witch Hunt” with solos from Dyar, Niemeyer, and from leader who mimics the creature’s plodding steps before yielding to Osawa for a workout on the kit before a wild sequence ensues before the stomping rhythms bring it to a rousing close. Binder turns his wit toward three musicians with the funky “Stevie Isn’t Blind,” obviously citing Stevie Wonder while quoting “Superstition” with a twisted, inverted bass line, and inserting passages from “Sir Duke” and “Isn’t She Lovely.” The piece is a tour de force for Reeder on the Rhodes as well. Speaking of bass lines, echoes of the familiar Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” surface with a blend of “Katy is a Lizard,” off the conspiracy that Katy Perry is a shape-shifting lizard person, as Binder and ensemble poke fun at her hits, “California Gurls,” “Peacocks,” “Dark Horse,’ and “Wide Awake” with strong ensemble unison lines and stratospheric trumpet from Dyar. The album’s closer brings in Beyonce with “Beyonce is the Illuminati’ placing her “Crazy in Love” and “Love on Top” over a Roy Hargrove inspired motif.
The musically inventive mind of Binder is on clear display in the “Mandela Effect,” for which conspirators have Mandela dying in prison in the ‘80s versus his true death in 2013. The seven iterations of the melody, mostly articulated by flutist Stark are interspersed with Osawa’s rallying cry drum solo and bass notes that spell “Mandela,” with harmonic conventions flipped, especially from the first iteration to the last. The alien inspired “Rush for Area for 51” has a unison melody with 51 notes, avant garde leaning improvised sections and threads of popular space movies like Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustria,” “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Twilight Zone,” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Listen closely; you may hear others. On a similar wavelength, but with a more accessible twelve-tone row, “Moonwalk” essays the supposed fake moon landing of Apollo 11, a feature for trombonist Niemeyer.
“Dark Side of the Mattress Firm” couples the theory of Mattress Firm as a money laundering scheme with music from Pink Floyd, specifically “Money” while the opening flute delivered melody owes to Brahms “Lullaby.” Eventually the piece bumps through the rhythmically challenging 7/4- and 9/4-time signatures. Binder bases the erroneous concept that birds are surveillance drones for the government on Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology,” with an intro mimicking and array of bird calls and songs, with the main piece a platform for the bebop chops of Stark and Niemeyer along with tasteful accompaniment from the chordal players, Reeder and Gobbo. So, with birds very much alive, contrary to the conspiracy theory, then “Avril Is Dead” is indeed a contradiction as well. The tune envisions the pop-punk singer replaces by a doppelganger, and appropriately the ensemble applies a chugging rock tinge to the piece, quoting “Sk8r Boi” and “Complicated.”
Rarely has a jazz album so inventively married pop with modern jazz. By the way, “deliracy,” commensurate with Binder’s wild imagination appears to be a completely invented word.
- Jim Hynes
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