Dave King’s career sounds as ferociously energized as his playing. Best known for his high-octane drumming with the Bad Plus, King also belongs to eight other bands, according to his website. If that weren’t enough, last year he released a solo album of himself on drums and piano. His latest release, Good Old Light, features the newest of his bands exploring what might have resulted “if the great Nashville bands of the ’60s and ’70s could improvise and were Coltrane fanatics.”
Joining King are his frequent collaborators Erik Fratzke on guitar, Chris Speed and Brandon Wozniak on tenor saxes, and Adam Linz on acoustic bass-but not on the opening track, “April in Gary,” a somber, brooding piece that King plays unaccompanied on piano and seems a transition (or leftover) from his solo album. Most everything that follows from the Trucking Company is what you’d expect from a King band: lots of speed, vigor, improvisation and an eagerness to reach outside jazz itself for inspiration.
A few pieces slow things down: “I Am Looking for Strength” has a prayerful feel to it, with a strong solo from Speed above suitably heavy drumming from the leader; “Church Clothes w/Wallet Chain” is a ballad-like piece highlighting Linz on bass backed by King’s brushes. “Night Tram” is the jazziest tune on the disc, leaning more Ornette than Trane and featuring several strong solos. “You Can’t Say ‘Poem in Concrete'” has a rock beat, a gentle, infectious melody and a charged solo from Wozniak. Another rocker, Fratzke’s “Hawk Over Traffic,” boasts a quirky yet hard-to-forget head, soaring sax work and a guitar break redolent of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
There’s lots of smart, joyous energy to be found here. Purists may cringe and think it bombastic, but that’s what has often lured young listeners to jazz.