For Believe the endlessly creative, egoless drummer Scott Amendola assembled a band of underground all-stars in violinist Jenny Scheinman, bassist John Shifflett and two of the most strikingly original six-stringers on the guitar scene: Los Angeleno Nels Cline (currently with the experimental alt-rock band Wilco) and Chicagoan Jeff Parker (from Tortoise).
Believe recalls Marc Johnson's Bass Desires band, which featured the guitar tandem of Bill Frisell and John Scofield, but the outre tendencies of Cline and Parker lend a more provocative quality to these proceedings. Cline deals in ambient, Frisellian loops ("Believe," "Cesar Chavez") while also indulging in Hendrixian feedback assaults ("Resistance") and channeling the grungy spirit of Neil Young and Crazy Horse ("Buffalo Bird Woman"). Parker answers with Sonny Sharrock-style "shards of splintered glass"("Oladipo") and warm-toned but jagged single-note lines that recall James "Blood" Ulmer ("Smarty Pants"). The two guitarists also engage in some spiky, pointillistic exchanges on the intro to "Shady," an Amendola composition that recalls some of Ronald Shannon Jackson's more melodic, Ornette Coleman-inspired writing with his early '80s Decoding Society.
"If Only Once," a hauntingly beautiful ballad showcase for Scheinman's soaring violin, reveals the drummer's sensitive touch with brushes. Composer-bandleader Amendola also shows his Motianesque way with time on the swinging "Smarty Pants," the SAB's tongue-in-cheek stab at bebop. This is high-level art music, executed with intelligence, passion and unadulterated abandon by a crew of sonic subversives who are also among the leading lights of today's alternative-jazz scene.