May 2006

John Schott
John Schott's Typical Orchestra
Schott/Smash the State

Calling John Schott’s aggregation “typical” is like calling the guitarist’s frequent collaborator John Zorn “run of the mill.” Instrumentation changes radically from quartet to octet within a few tracks of this album, so “orchestra” doesn’t always suit the group either. Regardless, this music needs to be heard.

Schott, who has also worked with Charlie Hunter in T.J. Kirk, plays with a sharp, brittle sound that recalls Marc Ribot’s work with Tom Waits. His tone and adventurous writing make several of the tracks seem ripe for a vocal from Waits or even Don “Captain Beefheart” Van Vliet, especially the Sturm und Drang of a tune like “Doom Indigo.” To extend the connection, Carla Kihlstedt, who recorded with Waits, plays Romanian resonator violin on the slinky “The Grind.” Elsewhere, a five-piece horn section shows up for a no-nonsense stab at traditional reggae (“The World Is Upside Down”) and the City of the Angels gets a reverent salute by acoustic guitar, bandoneón and rhythm (“Los Angeles”).

Clarinetist Ben Goldberg appears on all nine tracks, along with bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Ches Smith. Aside from some annoying wordless vocals on two tracks, the Orchestra rarely hits a bum note. With extra touches like a jaw’s harp, washboard, vibraphone and Farfisa, Schott’s self-released disc might not have extensive distribution beyond his Web site (, so start clicking.

Originally published in May 2006

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