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January/February 2004

Skerik Syncopated Taint Septet
Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet
Ropeadope

Saxophonist and leader Skerik insists that this motley crew came together rather serendipitously, if haphazardly, but they sure project cohesiveness and character. Skerik-who's ubiquitous around the jam-band scene, playing in Garage à Trois, Tuatara and Critters Buggin'-was in Seattle last summer, in-between gigs, and he called baritone saxophonist Craig Flory to rally up some friends for some informal gigs. Suddenly, their modest desire for a relatively small combo swelled into a five-member frontline horn section and a rhythm section of drums and organ. After several inspired performances, the members could no longer ignore their remarkable collective chemistry and wisely orchestrated a taped live show at Seattle's Owl & Thistle.

But on this self-titled CD the music seems less casual than you're led to believe. Sure, the music is mostly built upon riffs, vamps and syncopations, but who would have thought of retooling Sly & the Family Stone's "Runnin' Away" into an orchestral, elegiac interlude? The band then dives into alto saxophonist Hans Teuber's exuberant "Too Many Toys," which, thanks to the jittery melody and bouncy beat, exudes the spirit of a high school pep-rally. The tight collective interplay displayed on the second-line burner "Let Me Be Your Voodoo Doll" suggests at least a year of performing together, while the suspenseful, well-paced solo from Dave Carter's burnished trumpet and Skerik's own sly tenor musing sound as if they've explored this tune at various angles many times before.

There are some loud, sometimes unnecessary moments here, though, that suggest that the septet is running out of ideas, trading in brains for bombast, as on "Christina," which climaxes into a series of bloodcurdling organ squawks and dissonant horn skronks.

But those moments are surprisingly few in comparison to the spirited, immediate musicianship displayed throughout. If this is only the humble beginnings, one wonders what Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet would sound like if Skerik put all other extracurricular activities aside and devoted his undivided attention to the group.

Originally published in January/February 2004
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