Matt Steckler, founder of and one of four saxophonists in Dead Cat Bounce, says the theme of Chance Episodes explores “memory’s haphazard way of bringing to the fore seemingly unrelated events, so that an episodic narrative is created, as if ‘by chance.’” Created on commission nine years ago, the 11 tracks don’t obviously sound like a suite; they work as a whole, sure, but stand up equally well on their own. And, as Steckler indicates, there is a randomness as well as a continuity to the compositions, which employ his recurring technique of changing tones, tempos or rhythms in a piece with little or no transition.
Created in Boston in the late ’90s (and named for the brief recovery in the price of declining stock), Dead Cat Bounce has tipped its hat to Charles Mingus and the World Saxophone Quartet in the past. By now, though, Steckler’s writing has become more distinctive, at times combining the sonorities of a big band with a thoroughly avant-garde scrappiness and willingness to go anywhere and use anything. “Bio Dyno Man” closes with a pile of reeds that sounds like a mix of saxophones and toy horns; “Silent Moveie, Russia 1995” evokes the melancholia you’d expect given the title, before dipping into a klezmer melody and later heading into gruff tenor sax overtones.
The sextet’s name and song titles like “Food Blogger” betray a sense of humor. But the music’s sense of postmodern storytelling proves that the band’s wit is inspired by greater artistic depth.