Album Review: Jack Lion — JAC EP

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Jack Lion — JAC EP

It seemed that after Slip Silo vocalist and guitarist Matt Logan split the Midwest and his band to take an opportunity on the West Coast, the remainder of the band was rudderless. In a March 2013 interview with Little Village he said that he hoped they’d be able to continue on the mission of connecting and tapping into a “transcendent and universal creativity source” without him.

In that same interview Logan said that he hoped the remaining trio would keep the band name, and, for a while, they did. After meeting a cab driver with a big personality and joie de vivre, the band decided to rename themselves in tribute to him.

A particularly transcendent performance at the Trumpet Blossom helped the trio gain their bearings. “This is it,” said trumpeter and producer Brian Lewis Smith in an official statement. “This is our passion.”

On their latest release JAC EP, the trio creates music that has roots in Slip Silo, but is distilled and refined to an ambient electronic sound with some live instrumentation — notably the trumpet work of Smith which carries the melody line in most of the songs.

This fusion of live jazz instrumentation and electronic samples and keyboards reminds me a lot of Kieran Hebden of Four Tet’s side project with jazz drummer Steve Reid. I found myself initially trying to figure out what was actually played and what was samples, but my attention was soon drawn away and I was left to enjoy the album’s mixture of the subtle textures.

“So It Goes” carries a looped tick-tock beat with bits of percussion flowing in and out which make it difficult to tell what is played by drummer Justin Leduc and what is sampled. The muted trumpet darts like a fish in a bubbling brook of keyboards at times echoing the melody of the keyboards and other times taking its own line.

“Bowlingsmith” opens with a trumpet playing a taps-like melody while the beat and synths march along. The counterpoint of the keyboard pacing soon picks up, forcing the listener to focus on the widening vistas of the deliberately extended notes of the trumpet.

The band says they are developing the improvisational aspects of their music — “the universal creativity source,” if you will — but, it isn’t the atonal squonking that free jazz is sometimes known for. There are distinct song structures and melody that the listener can follow which result in a very satisfying soundtrack.

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