Another Ride on the Elephant Slide
(2017 – THIRSTY OWL RECORDS – USA)
What would you say to a fantastic avant jazz big band that covered grounds similar to Carla Bley, Michael Mantler (once married to Carla Bley), Scott Joplin, Aaron Copland, and much more on a short but lusty recording? Read on. Composer and conductor (also plays violin and viola) Lauren Elizabeth Baba, with a 17 piece experimental big band from Los Angeles, recorded this masterpiece at Seahorse Sound Studios, in LA, CA. This could fit into a RIO category for lovers of Elton Dean’s Ninesense, Flat Earth Society, and even nods to haunting chamber bands such as Univers Zero, and Art Zoyd. This brilliant work is superior and ultra inventive . From the first seconds and through the entire recording, you’ll be hooked and more than happy. I think the proper word is elated. I am still floating days after last hearing ‘Another Ride on the Elephant Slide’.
Plenty of trumpets, clarinets, tenor and baritone sax, trombone, along with guitar, piano, bass, and drums, are used in Baba’s compositions, to not only rub a new shine on avant chamber music, but also mesh perfectly with big band and diverted gothic soundtrack. While not without an occasional sax attack, the music weaves like a large anaconda on the prowl for a meal. The pace recoils from a few seizures to creeping explorations, then off to jiffy trippy jazz parts (that could be a 1960’s secret agent theme song). And let us not leave out the upright bass solo. ‘Zaa’tar’ (track 5) also gives an exotic eastern taste with dynamics to die for. It’s a rhythmic showpiece with cool written all over it. ‘Another Ride on the Elephant Slide’ (last track) will leave you spellbound with it’s Henry Cow/Carla Bley/hybrid dixieland/ragtime and undercurrent of blues/new world jazz concoction. FANTASTIC! With only six compositions on this release (4 of them being in the 10 minute range), there are even moments that would fit on a ECM jazz item. Baba does a crowning job of putting these charts together and connecting so many difficult junctures, not to mention the energy and concentration each musician must have to make all this a reality. It is with this, I present the entire Baba Orchestra (or theBABAorchestra, as it is always spelled).
Lauren Elizabeth Baba · conducting | compositions
–Michael Mull · alto saxophone | clarinet , Joe Santa Maria · alto saxophone | clarinet , Kirsten Edkins · tenor saxophone, Andrew Conrad · tenor saxophone | clarinet, Ryan Parrish · baritone saxophone, Javier Gonzalez · trumpet, Brandon Sherman · trumpet, Andrew Rowan · trumpet, Greg Zilboorg · trumpet, Harrison Kirk · trombone, Joey Sellers · trombone, Shaunte´ Palmer · trombone, Juliane Gralle · bass trombone, Gregory Uhlmann · guitar, Steve Blum · piano, Emilio Terranova · bass, and Mike Lockwood · drums.
Attending a live show of this would be both a thrill and experience not soon, if ever, forgotten. With the beautiful blend of angular rhythms, multiple textures, direction changes galore, cross culture unpredictable next moments, rich tapestry, and bold fusion, you will thank me for VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDING this superlative work. The icing on the cake is the very nice grey scale art fold out digipak with a picture of Lauren conducting theBABAorchestra inside.
Reviewed by Lee Henderson 4 – 1 – 2018