Jazz review: Gutbucket Chamber Orchestra at REDCAT
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Listening to the Brooklyn four-piece Gutbucket, it’s hard not to think of the old line that generally applies to the weather just about everywhere outside of Southern California. If you don’t like what’s happening, just wait a couple minutes and it will change.
Over two aggressively category-defying sets at REDCAT Monday night, Gutbucket worked a jagged yet fertile seam between jazz and rock highlighted by on-a-dime twists in tempo, time signatures and mood -- often within the same song. With deep roots in the downtown New York City avant-jazz scene of the early ‘00s, Gutbucket bears hints of the klezmer-dusted fireworks of John Zorn in saxophonist-ringleader Ken Thomson’s excursions along with the bent effects-pedal workouts of Sonic Youth that can be traced in guitarist Ty Citerman. But the band’s unpredictable sound is harder to pigeonhole.
In a taut first set taken from the group’s rambunctious 2011 album ‘Flock,’ the group’s ADD-enhanced compositional verve was in full bloom. ‘Zero Is Short for Idiot’ found Gutbucket expanding upon a seesawing melody from Thomson until the song reached a near-explosive peak; the more contemplative ‘Murakami’ showed the group flashing a more atmospheric, unstructured side led by a droning guitar arc from Citerman. Other experiments were more difficult to follow, such as the smirkingly named ‘d0g Help Us,’ which cycled through so many head-spinning stutters and stops in rhythm that the effect eventually became exhausting.
For the second set the band was joined by a selection of CalArts students for the ‘chamber orchestra’ portion of the evening, and the broader palette of vibraphone, keyboards and clarinets seemed to draw the group into tighter focus. Introduced as ‘A love song to America,’ the driving ‘More More Bigger Better Faster With Cheese’ sped along an insistent groove reminiscent of late ‘90s post-rock, guided by a percolating rhythm hammered out by electric upright bassist Eric Rockwin, and ‘Doppelgänger’s Requiem’ featured a gorgeously slow-burning turn by Thomson before evolving into a zigzagging finish.
Even with its young accompanists, however, the group wasn’t about to be contained. A bass clarinet solo by CalArts’ Michael Mull in ‘C’mon It’s Just a Dollar’ gave way to a frantic end section that vaguely resembled a punk show under a circus tent, and the set-closing ‘Brain Born Outside Its Head’ stomped through something akin to jazz sludge metal, inspiring a giddy Thomson to leap to the center of the stage at its abrupt finish as if trying to stick his dismount. It had been an undoubtedly wild ride.
-- Chris Barton