No sooner had Mostly Other People Do the Killing expanded to a septet with Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup Records, 2017) than they shrink to their smallest formation to date with the trio release Paint. Founding member, bassist, and composer Moppa Elliott is joined by pianist Ron Stabinsky and drummer Kevin Shea. Trumpeter Peter Evans had departed the group before its 2015 Mauch Chunk album and now without Jon Irabagon's alto saxophone in the lineup, the sound takes a very different form. But convention has never been the MOPDtK modus operandi and this piano trio is hardly traditional.
Blowing up Mostly Other People Do the Killing from its core quartet to a septet may seem like an invitation to dance on the musical third rail. The group that has always straddled the broad and fuzzy line between tradition and chaotic improvisation, has nevertheless managed that process with a mixture of sophistication, revelation and unbridled enthusiasm. Loafer's Hollow is a surprising entry to their catalog of one-dozen releases.
One of the reasons that Mostly Other People Do the Killing has remained one of the most vital forces in modern jazz over the past decade is their willingness to embrace the joy and humor that can be found when playing music. From naming their tracks after small towns in Pennsylvania to the satirical dig at America’s culture of violence that gives them their name, the music is bright and buoyant and always a lot of fun. This album was recorded live during the Jazz and Beyond Improvised Music Festival on October 29th, 2012 at Jazz Klub Hipnoza in Katowice, Poland.
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).
The inspiration behind Closer to the People was to get Tanita Tikaram closer to her road band: to record the singer/songwriter with a touring combo with serious blues and soul roots. Several of these players have done time with Van Morrison, a comparison that comes in handy for Closer to the People, not because her songs sound like Van's – they don't – but the record trades in jazz and soul influences while also spinning these familiar tropes into the realm of the personal. Tikaram specializes in sculpted, open-ended compositions – even when the tempo quickens her songs seem to unfold gracefully – and that means the hushed arrangements, underpinned by acoustic bass and brushed drums, seem like reflections of the song's soul. Such tasteful surroundings mean Closer to the People works well as a mood album – the quiet, sophisticated veneer is sustained from beginning to end – but the album is rewarding with closer attention, attention that reveals the details in both the arrangements and writing.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing, the bad boys of jazz, don't quite turn in a straight ahead hard bop album with Mauch Chunk, but it's as close as they are likely to get. The new quartet has pianist Ron Stabinsky in place of longtime trumpeter Peter Evans—which seems to ground the group sound—and there's less obvious classic jazz deconstruction and quotation than normal. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon stays on alto for the entire session, something he has not done in awhile. The sort-of title tune "Mauch Chunk is Jim Thorpe" opens the program with a jaunty swing, and it stays in character…but Irabagon can't resist throwing in a quote from the standard "Misty" during his solo.