Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ballin’ the Jack: The Big Head

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Saxophonist and clarinetist Matt Darriau’s swing band Ballin’ the Jack made its aims clear on its first album, Jungle. Instead of offering the typical carefully embalmed versions of swing-era repertoire-or even the tightly puckered, airless readings of Don Byron’s Bug Music-Darriau’s crew offered fresh, bawdy performances that captured the brash fire of the originals. The band also eschewed downtown’s trademark po-mo irony. The band made it clear from the beginning that they were serious about their love for this music-and serious about having fun with it as well.

On the new The Big Head, Ballin’ the Jack once again offers a slightly akimbo take on the likes of Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Gene Ammons. Leadbelly’s “Dick’s Holler” features impressively gutsy soloing by Darriau, guitarist Ben Sher and trumpeter Frank London, underpinned by Anthony Coleman’s sinuously gurgling organ. Coleman goads the headlong rush of Goodman’s “Seven Come Eleven” with spacey electric keyboards a la Sun Ra. A cheeky version of “Moonlight Serenade” interpolates extramusical bits from a Glenn Miller recording into the arrangement.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.