Joyousness is the most striking quality one gets from initially hearing Happy Apple's music. They're certainly fine players, but there's a free-wheeling, frenzied sensibility that makes these songs engaging and frequently enjoyable except for the overly long "Creme de Menthe Quasar." This group also has a strong affinity for Weather Report, with bass guitarist and guitarist Erik Fratzke in particular reflecting the Jaco Pastorius punk-jazz attitude. Fratzke plays bass like a lead rather than a rhythm instrument, ripping through choruses, playing thudding, splintering phrases and being as conscious of making dynamic statements as setting the direction for fellow bandmates saxophonist Michael Lewis and drummer David King (who also charges another power trio, the Bad Plus). Lewis and King double on everything from acoustic bass to the Mellotron and even the waterphone-whatever that is-with their resultant dialogues alternately creating moments of pleasure, laughter and uncertainty, sometimes all within the same piece.
Disc highlights include the title track (played in two versions), the meandering yet oddly attractive "Drama Section" and the delightful "The Landfall Planetarium" and "The Treetops of a Bad Neighbourhood." King seldom takes the route of a traditional drummer, instead shifting from bombastic backgrounds one moment to light textures the next, then back to aggressive rhythms. Lewis can be sentimental on occasion but prefers bluesy, intense solos. Happy Apple's unison segments range from haphazard to danceable, but they're never tentative or wooden.
This trio really likes these songs, and fully communicates that through their exchanges and playing. I'm not sure if Happy Apple's the wave of the future, but this trio is truly something you won't hear everyday.