Dave King Trucking Company—King (of the Bad Plus fame) on “drums and cymbals,” Erik Fratzke on electric guitar, Adam Linz on acoustic bass, Chris Speed and Brandon Wozniak on tenor saxes—is back at it with a second album, Adopted Highway—“it” meaning playfully yet authoritatively flitting across musical borders from King’s base in Minneapolis. As King himself puts it in a comedy-infused website Kickstarter appeal: “It’s a band that sort of plays an Americana-tinged kind of avant-garde jazz, I suppose, if you want to classify it.”
King contributes five of seven compositions on the new disc, which opens with his “I Will Live Next to the Wrecking Yard,” whose cacophonous complexity almost seems aimed to drive off unadventurous listeners while simultaneously showcasing the band’s ability to interact as a unit. More accessible are tracks two and three: King’s “Dolly Jo and Ben Jay” swings with an Ornette Coleman-ish vibe, seasoned with an impressive dash of Abercrombie-ish guitar from Fratzke and some duo action from Speed and King; his “Ice Princess King,” dedicated to “female hockey groupies,” skates on an infectiously convoluted head. The leader’s “When in North Dakota” is similarly mesmerizing: “canned Schlitz in music,” in King’s words, his celebration of boyhood trips to visit relatives, featuring soaring saxophone.
“This Is a Non-Lecture,” yet another King original, is a minimalist tribute to e.e. cummings, with counterpoint from the saxes that swells in melodicism and spirit as it progresses. Linz’s “Do You Live in Star City?” is slow-paced and experimental, with an emphasis on painterly guitar atmospherics. Fratzke’s earthier “Bronsonesque” (as in Charles Bronson) is a rough-edged slow blues kicked off by Linz. This is unusually approachable stuff, all in all, for music that calls itself avant-garde.