The five-horn frontline of Skerik’s Syncopated Taint Septet, led by the one-named Skerik on tenor sax, can make gripping chaos from contrary motion or craft harmonies at once soft and rich. Joe Doria’s Hammond B3 and the drum work of John Wicks solidify the bass lines and amplify the funk and hip-hop rhythms that drive so many of the septet’s tunes. But what sets the Syncopated Tainters apart from mere jam-masters is their command of ensemble writing and musical structure—almost every song on Husky has some delicious, mesmerizing twist that keeps you listening for more.
The steady, implacable beat of “Fry His Ass” keeps leading soloists into thickets of madcap ensemble playing that they suddenly yield to quiet. “The Third Rail” teeters between hard swing and harder funk but ultimately maintains an absorbing balance. “Irritaint” aptly combines rolling, N’awlins-style brass writing and a breakbeat passage from Wicks, and “Song for Bad” begins with a chill groove laced with organ chords but builds into the biggest smile of a chord progression you’re ever likely to hear. Even “Go to Hell Mr. Bush” surprises, as a lovely flute pastorale from Hans Teuber bracketing an elegiac central section. A song about our current president that doesn’t break down into clamorous disarray? Now that’s unexpected.