Tonight at the Hideout the Engines play two sets to announce the release of the their recent eponymous debut for Okka Disk. The quartet features some names familiar to those who keep abreast of the local free jazz scene—trombonist Jeb Bishop, reedist Dave Rempis, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Tim Daisy. Just about all the press I’ve read on the band elucidates the various connections the musicians all have to Ken Vandermark, and the intense energy of the quartet certainly recalls the knockdown blowouts of the V5, which all but McBride have played in. Yet by playing compositions penned by all four members the Engines spread the attack around. The tautness of the arrangements and the rock-inspired fury—particularly when the bassist goes electric and lays down a thick and nasty grind—may constitute a group sound, but each tune covers different turf. A piece like Daisy’s aptly titled “Careful” uses fragile, practically invisible contours to organize sensitive improvisations that seem to be on the edge of disintegration. More often, however, the front line taps into the deep grooves carved out by the rhythm section, which frequently bumps into the blues without exactly embracing it. Rempis and Bishop unfurl plenty of muscular, searching solos, but my favorite parts are when the two get tangled in each other’s lines: you can hear the years of experience at work in the way they support and challenge each other without getting in each other’s way.
This band is certainly worth space in the paper, but I recused myself because I am DJing, in an Iron Chef-style battle with John Corbett, before, between, and after the band’s sets. But even if I wasn’t spinning I would be there anyway. Plus, they're fresh off a two-week US tour, so they ought to be burnin'.
Christian Wallumrod, The Zoo is Far (ECM)
Vanessa da Mata, Sim (Sony/BMG, Brazil)
Angie Stone, The Art of Love and War (Stax)
Panda Bear, Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)
Michel Portal, Birdwatcher (Sunnyside)