“It’s the bipolar part of town,” Unmistakable Evidence’s urbanely voiced, decidedly trippy narrator/shaman informs us on “Purgatory Avenue,” atop a rolling soundscape of token Sun Ra vamps, as though a queue of beat poets were waiting to come out and do their stuff.
Customary jazz fans—that is, anyone who tends to think of jazz in terms of idioms—won’t find much in the way of bop, free, swing or mainstream here, but there is a surplus of lounge jazz, albeit lounge jazz tweaked: elevated, even, to a series of form experiments and enigmas—how to apportion a rock groove, an Ecstasy house beat and Native American rhythmic chants (as on “Kaliwood”) so as to fit the format of what’s essentially a coffeehouse folk diversion. Heady.
One never does know when, exactly, the shaman will pop in to deliver his latest sermon, which isn’t as freely associative as you might expect, though occasionally in Spanish and rendered with what we might call lysergic energy. Or maybe just a touch of laudanum. But it’s all a send-up, a bit like Bela Lugosi booming away as a mad sage in an Ed Wood film, and sometimes hypnotic—the brass on “Requiem (For Ed Martinez)” commits to a weird, desert barcarolle, an eventually welcome intrusion on, and enhancement of, the wailing, slightly muffled female canting, as though heard from outside a densely packed adobe. A dozen performers account for the “troupe,” since, naturally, labels like “band” and “group” won’t do, and merry minstrels tend to think in terms of collectives and warm, hopeful reassurances. Hence, paeans to overlooked matters, like fossils: “I could do some trilobite poetry.” Of course you could.