This was an amazing gig bringing together the energy and anarchy of the punk rock band The Ex with the drive of Brass Unbound, a brass section with Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson on baritone and tenor sax, Roy Paci on trumpet and Wolter Wierbos on trombone. The sheer volume of sound and the swirling rhythms created a stunning degree of excitement. Basically it was led by The Ex with weird but wonderful vocals and an excellent drummer. I am often critical of the limitations of rock drummers, but this one (sadly I didn’t get her name) really drove the band in a very interesting way totally different from what jazz drummers do. Brass Unbound essentially added riffs that blended very effectively and excitingly with the The Ex rhythms.
I have one fairly major reservation. As the gig progressed, I began to want Brass Unbound to vary their role more and to have rather more freedom. There were some solos: a particular good one from Ken, one of Mats’ almost trademark screaming solos, and punchy contributions from Paci and Wierbos, but more would have been nice.
This was, however, another good example of rock and jazz mixing naturally and successfully. It wasn’t jazz rock as that term has become associated with a certain style that emerged in the 1960s and 70s. Here it was a rock gig incorporating strong elements of free jazz , but in a very structured way. And it certainly wasn’t jazz drawing on rock. We will have to start thinking of new names to capture this important and exciting music.
Review by Tony Dudley Evans of Birmingham Jazz
Photos by Jenny Moore