-Originally published in the NYC Jazz Record, December 2015-
CD review by John Pietaro
Todd Capp’s Mystery Train, Paris Frere. Noncept Records, 2015
Though ‘Paris Frere’ was recorded in Brooklyn, the sounds captured on this disc may well have come through an artic passage by way of a lost culture. But the assemblage doesn’t do “world music”; this release casts a secret night journey into the avant heart of new music. And you’ll want to pay close attention to the content lest it envelop you like an aural haunting.
Drummer-leader Capp directs this brilliant ensemble securely from behind. His musicianship is exported often times through what he does not play. This has been written before about such rare drummers, but Capp creates boiling points at pianissimo as needed, with marked tacits to increase tension. Stinger accents via muted cymbals or atmospheric rim-shots allow the mind’s ear to fill in the rest. Or not. Capp experimented early on with prime movers of the AACM in Chicago before becoming embedded in his native NY’s downtown ‘80s hotbed. In Mystery Train, Capp’s contrapuntal drumming works in startling accord with Kurt Ralske’s yearning, adventurous cornet, Watson Jennison’s beautifully pained reeds and flute (and drums on one track), Andrew Lafkas’ driving bass, and the deep gray tapestries generated by Gao Jiafeng and Michael A Holmes, alternating spots on electronics. Add the wonderfully other-worldly voice tracks of Jiafeng and the music crosses into other places, other times.
Use of modal phrases, pedal-centered basslines, echoey cornet and timp mallets rolling across tom-toms offers this music something of an ECM vibe, yet there is an urgency here that cuts to the core of free jazz: a revolutionary declaration of sound. The restless foray of ‘Paris Frere’ may begin on the continent but quickly disappears into the highlands of the East and out. This is visceral music.
Capp and company, through five bold pieces, would deny you the opportunity to ever categorize Mystery Train.