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Wayne Horvitz and Zony Mash: Cold Spell

Combine more or less traditional jazz instrumentation, a decidedly funky rock vibe, a healthy portion of musically unorthodox twists and turns, and you have what Horvitz’s Zony Mash (named after a Meters tune) is all about. In addition to the esteemed leader, who mans the Hammond B-3, the group comprises Seattle-based electric bassist Fred Chalenor, electric guitarist Timothy Young, and drummer Andy Roth.

Up front, the group grooves mightily, albeit in a minimalist kind of way, with Horvitz pumping out chords and adding funky fills, Young getting in some searing licks, and everyone else contributing to the overall vibe. Cases in point include “Happens Like That,” a tough but relaxed number that recalls grooves laid down by Canned Heat and Tommy James, and “Sex Fiend,” a more funky up tempo outing with plenty of burning guitar and a few cool but unexpected ensemble transitions. Providing a change of pace are “Cold Spell,” a ballad that marries spacey whammy bar work with some jazzy chromatic changes, and “Daylight,” which begins as a whisper and subtly crescendos while Young noodles in the background.

In contrast, the music of Horvitz compadre Briggan Krauss is as avant as his group’s instrumentation is unconventional (with Krauss on alto, Chris Speed on tenor and clarinet, and Michael Sarin on drums). Throughout, unusual harmonizations, unpredictable interplay, jarring mood changes, and a wide array of seemingly freely associative horn effects are the order of the day. The ensemble conjures a Middle Eastern vibe on “Aloha” that nervously breaks down on occasion, while “Painball” disassembles an insipid melody and then grinds the parts into dust.

Members of the same musical school exploring divergent paths; it all shows that on improvisation’s fringe, anything goes.

Originally Published