Thursday, July 21, 2011

CD Review - Inzinzac


This album has one of the most unsettling cover images to be seen on a jazz album in ages. There's probably a questionable cover from CTI's '70s catalog that compares. Stanley Turrentine's Sugar, with the silhouette of a foot being licked was a bit racy, but it doesn't compare to this: a smaller chimpanzee standing on the chest of a bigger chimp, and choking it. The fact that these monks are apparently man-made sculptures only adds to the uncomfortable quality.

Inzinzac's music also feels a bit unsettling, but this Philadelphia trio are far from being simply a wild, bassless group of improvisers. They definitely let go and run wild in many places throughout their eight-song debut, but they also rock pretty hard within their tightly built compositions.

Guitarist Alban Bailly, a French transplant to the U.S., writes all the tunes and plays with a tone that isn't quite as brittle as Marc Ribot, but still has that sharp, trebly attack. He also sounds like the bass tone on his amp is cranked up to fill in the sound. (At least my speakers said as much.) "71" has a stop-start/staccato feel to it but drummer Eli Litwin gives it a solid beat that keeps it driving. His background in metal is put to good use throughout the album, as he knows when to hold things together and when to let them implode. (He also plays in the improv group Normal Love and he has a solo project called Intensus.) "Chapi Chapo" begins by rocking hard on an art rock riff before it falls into a free break, complete with drum rolls, tenor sax overtones and guitar plinks.

Dan Scofield alternates between soprano and tenor with nearly every track. His smaller horn sounds fairly muscular during an unaccompanied section in "Otis," as well as "Lemurien," where it goes from quiet to loud, finally settling on a theme that sounds like a deranged Irish jig.

Although guitar/saxophone/drums groups can't really be called common, there is often a certain attack that bands with this instrumentation have, with chaos and gruffness being the order of the day. Inzinzac possesses a strong, wild streak but it doesn't take long to realize they have a great deal of clarity in how they present themselves. And once you get past that nasty front cover, this is one of the more impressive debuts of the year.

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