Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, A Silver Mt. Zion (just one of its many names) came to life in 1999 as a project for Godspeed You! Black Emperor member Efrim Menuck in his attempt to learn to score music. The original idea was pushed aside, and the project would go on to become a group setting, and was more in touch with the idea of the organic growth and exploration of music than the heavily composed and arranged theoretical work of Godspeed. Inspired to record an album of the music that had been made, Menuck built up the first version of A Silver Mt. Zion, taking on violinist Sophie Trudeau and bassist Thierry Amar, both known as collaborators in the Godspeed family. The band made its live debut in 1999 and released its first album, He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms…, on Constellation in 2000. Still known as A Silver Mt. Zion, the band expanded its membership in 2000 – adding cellist Beckie Foon, guitarist Ian Ilavsky, and violinist Jessica Moss – which led to the first of many name changes.
This summit recording by pianist John Hicks, drummer Elvin Jones, and bassist Cecil McBee might not always hit the heights, but it still impresses with a fine repertoire and quality playing. John Coltrane's "Cousin Mary" kicks things off with Hicks and Jones matching the vigorous interplay the drummer and pianist McCoy Tyner plied so well in Coltrane's classic quartet, while a faithful reading of the tenor giant's airy ballad "After the Rain" is also included.
‘Tis the season for country-themed side projects. Just a few weeks before Mt. Desolation’s release, Tired Pony – another indie rock supergroup with rootsy inclinations – issued their own debut. What was billed as a country album turned out to be little more than standard pop/rock, though, which makes Mt. Desolation’s debut – recorded by a loose group of British musicians, with Keane's Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin serving as co-captains – all the more charming. The best songs here sound like genuine Americana, not pop songs dressed up in acoustic guitars and cowboy shirts, and even the filler material has a cohesion that’s rare for most first-time supergroups. “The Midnight Ghost,” with its barroom ambience and harmony vocals, is a woozy Western ballad that takes its cues from Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, while “Platform 7” – featuring the Killers’ Ronnie Vannucci on percussion – is bar band country-rock, filled with all the twangy trimmings that the Killers attempted (with mixed results) on Sam’s Town.