Shrunken Head Shop
Live in Germany
(2013 - self release - USA)
A bold and adventurous journey, Willie Oteri and company perform totally without preconceived notions, framework or discussion with this very cool set of concerts in three different locations in Germany. There is improvisation and then there is doing it spontaneous with no planning whatsoever. This off the cuff and naked on the spot playing is what Oteri and crew specialize in. Check out recordings by WD-41 for more music from Oteri and Laczko.
Immediately on first cut (“Legends of Litfass”) I am reminded of fusion of early Weather Report, Jon Hassell with a dash of eastern with a 24 minute jam featuring equally great Dave Laczko on trumpet, Willie Oteri on guitar and loops, Jan Fitschen on Chapman stick, Sylvia Oelkrug on violin and Schroeder at the drums. A loose alternately funk and alien soundscape are laid out as if it was meticulously composed. I’ve said this more than once about the improv music that Oteri has been involved with. It is improv but surprisingly so. Of course this is no amateur luck or accident. It takes both a gift for it, and many years of doing it in order to pull off the fine art of improvisation with other musicians. A great leader can bring out the best in others, but in this case, all musicians are perfectly put together for what we are served, on Shrunken Head Shop “Live in Germany”. You get three different locations where one or more tracks are created from scratch. This adds to the variety no doubt.
The second track “Whales of the Black Forest” you get an eerie intro emphasizing toms and cymbals from the drum kit and excellent volume control from guitar. Shortly thereafter, things build and a groove is dotting the i’s. This will thrill 70’s period Crimson fans with a David Cross like violin, Bruford and Muir spiced drums, nimble bass and guitar, and just plain great overall creation. “Tracks of the Mystery Ape” (track 4) although starts out with a quicker pace, also establishes itself with a slow burn, with exotic playfulness between everyone and the addition of both Alessandro Arcuri on bass, and Konrad Wiemann on percussion. A bit shorter (8:31) than the previous three works, it retains that sweet fusion of Weather Report and Crimson in their 70’s glory. This is simply great stuff through and through. The thing that may surprise many is how quick and smooth the melody lines are created from the entry of each title. This recording will have you shaking your head as to how they did this from scratch in front of a live audience. And if you have read this far, you need to know that this is NOT your typical improv recording. No sir, this is all stunningly created from start to finish with each delicious platter served piping hot with love and brilliance. The last track (“Wrath of Bernd”) is the shortest at a mere 5:38 minutes but no less, it puts another height of excellence to this wonderful CD. Very explorative guitar plays off tight and sharp drum beat, round bass lines, and digital delay violin with supreme success. I didn’t think it could get any better but I was wowed by the precise musicianship and almost unreal inventiveness that takes place. You are rewarded with a folk ditty at the end to put icing on what is the best cake WD-41 (now in the form of Shrunken Head Shop) and crew have ever presented. Yes I said it, this now sits at my number one spot for Willie Oteri and company. Everyone is equally deserving of the achievement this recording makes. TOTALLY AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! (Even for those who dislike improv, this will change your mind about the subject matter).
Reviewed by Lee Henderson March 31, 2014