The stand-up comic begins, "I went to a day of rage riot the other day, and a Moppa Elliott concert broke out." He might continue with, "Take my jazz canon, please." That is just what the bassist's quartet, Mostly Other People Do The Killing, does—seize the jazz standard and demolish it. The Coimbra Concert is the first live recording by the group, following its fourth studio record, Forty Fort (Hot Cup, 2009).
Hard on the heels of their divisive Blue album released last fall this follow up is a live album that plays to their strength as a forward thinking but accessible band that has one thing that lifts them over many of their colleagues: a wonderful sense of humor. This was lost during their atom by atom reconstruction of the Miles Davis Kind of Blue LP, but here they are on home turf, ripping through lengthy medleys of their own original music, as always mostly named after small towns in Pennsylvania. MOPDTK consists of Jon Irabagon on saxophones, Moppa Elliott on bass, Kevin Shea on drums and Peter Evans on trumpet.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing have recreated one of the greatest and most important jazz albums of all time. By attempting to make an identical copy of the original recording, this album poses several interesting questions about music in the 21st century.
I've been too busy enjoying the music of Mostly Other People Do the Killing (MOPTDK) to realize how controversial they've become. If you doubt their ability to rile the jazz world, all you have to do is post one of their videos on your Facebook page and wait for the ensuing kerfuffle to begin. The core band is comprised of four virtuoso instrumentalists, free-spirits who think nothing of hopping from honest-to-god punk rock, to free improv, to hard bop, to Americana, and back; sometimes in the space of a single track. Many of their original compositions, written by bassist Moppa Elliott, have the outward appearance of overlooked post-bop and bebop gems from the mid-1950s and early 60s.
Mostly Other Peopele Do the Killing is back! And with it the rightly slandered genre of smooth jazz. This quintet's fifth studio album was penned by MOPDtK bassist Moppa Elliott after a lengthy immersion in the smooth jazz recordings of the late 1970s and '80s. Elliott extracted certain idiomatic phrases, harmonies and embellishments from this superficial and commercial style, incorporated into his own compositions and used all the quartet members' encyclopedic knowledge to shed new light on this often maligned sub-genre.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing (yes, that's the name of the group) are mainly inspired by towns or villages in the state of Pennsylvania, and the music of Ornette Coleman. This is evident when you look at the cover art of this CD, a direct reference to Coleman's legendary album This Is Our Music. Nicely dressed young men in suits and ties, MOPDTK look only slightly like mad jazz pioneers, but in fact they seize the precepts of Coleman and are making inspired new music beyond others in their peer group. Moosic is also the name of a city in Pennsylvania, and there are others to which the band dedicates these selections. The stars of the group are trumpeter Peter Evans and saxophonist Jon Irabagon, both leaders in their own right and contributing exponentially to the brash soul and extroverted solos that identify the group sound.
If Mostly Other People Do the Killing seems to be all about cleverness –mysterious band name, calling their fourth album Forty Fort, Impulse!-like cover art, pseudo-brainiac liner notes by "Leonardo Featherweight," a goof on jazz critic of renown Leonard Feather – well, there is that. Even those who profess to disdain jazz's avant-garde, into which school this certainly falls, may very well be sucked in by the sheer fun of it all. From the first track, "Pen Argyl," the quartet – Moppa Elliott (bass), Peter Evans (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto and tenor saxophone), and Kevin Shea (drums, elecronics) – makes it clear that as serious as they are, they're not all that serious.
Bassist Moppa Elliot is clearly fond of Ornette Coleman's music, and this second quartet date with his unctuously titled band Most Other People Do the Killing, or MOPDTK for short, expands on that influence. Free swing and funk with a piquant edge, a taste for harmelodics, ragged rhythm, and approximate note phrases identify their sound. Trumpeter Peter Evans and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon, two notable rising star jazz improvisers, create the tension-and-release elements that spark this music, backed by Elliott's playful and bold basslines and the loose, craggy drumming of Kevin Shea.