Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Paint (Hot Cup)
Mostly Other People Do The Killing has been a septet, a quintet and a quartet. For Paint , now that saxophonist Jon Irabagon, has left, the band is a trio. Whatever its size, whatever its project, MOPDTK’s bassist and leader Moppa Elliott, sees that all of its original tunes are named after towns in Pennsylvania. In this case, the towns’ names also contain the names of colors, hence the album title. Yes, there is a place in Pennsylvania called Black Horse and a farm called Blue Goose, which —coincidentally—is the name of a piece that Duke Ellington recorded twice in 1940. In his book The Swing Era, Gunther Schuller describes “Blue Goose” as a “lesser number,” then praises Ellington and his soloists, particularly Johnny Hodges, for transforming it into something “quite beyond the reach of most other orchestras.” MOPDTK’s pianist Ron Stabinsky seems as determined as Ellington to transfigure the piece, some of whose harmonies suggest “Stardust,” although “Blue Goose” has a character all its own. Drummer Kevin Shea’s chattering strokes abet Stabinsky’s wild ride through the changes, far from the pair’s only sparring matches in this exhilarating collection.
Among other moments of abandon are departures into Latin rhythm in “Black Horse.” It was written by Elliott, as was all of the music on the album except for the Ellington piece. Not all is fun and games. “Golden Hill” is a waltz with an aggressive attitude, but not as aggressive as another waltz, “Plum Run.” “Orangeville” is bluesy, soulful, waltzy, repetitive and laced with drum-bass conversations. Stabinsky gets as wild as Jaki Byard or Cecil Taylor shortly before the piece comes to an abrupt end. Relatively peaceful, relatively calm and conventional, “Whitehall” ends a bracing listening experience, but be warned—or encouraged; with this band, nothing is conventional.