Get the Blessing: Lope and Antilope

So what is the appropriate course of action? To praise Get the Blessing’s Lope and Antilope for its ambitious synthesis of jazz with rock and electronica inflections? Or simply celebrate the sheer exuberance of this album-length extended improvisation, recorded over four days in an unused pottery studio? Given that choice, one can only gush: Lope and Antilope is one of 2014’s best jazz albums thus far.

This is the fourth outing from the British group uniting tenor and baritone saxophonist Jake McMurchie and trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Pete Judge with bassist Jim Barr and drummer Clive Deamer, the rhythm section from trip-hop pioneers Portishead. While admittedly in a cooler register than their occasionally rambunctious previous albums, Lope and Antilope stifles none of the band’s sonic adventurism. Inaugural track “Quiet” finds McMurchie’s distortion-pedaled tenor line shimmying like a fakir‘s snake, while “Viking Death Moped” blends snarling horns with incendiary runs from guest guitarist (and fellow Portishead member) Adrian Utley. Synthesized blurps and whinnies bolster the purgatorial-cocktail-lounge vibe of “Lope,” while Judge cheekily adds a toy piano’s tinkle to the almost sinfully funky “Corniche,” as Barr and the horns lay down a groove that would make James Brown positively green.

Even when flirting with ambient atmospherics, as on the echo-drenched “Luposcope,” Lope and Antilope never loses its playfulness, largely thanks to the relentless bounce of Deamer’s effortlessly on-point drums. This is as aesthetically exciting a jazz recording as any of the last decade, and its boundless entertainment value leaves no doubt that when Get the Blessing is in the house, it’s their listeners who are indeed blessed.