Mostly Other People Do the Killing started life in 2003 as a quartet with two horns/bass/drums, then enlarged to a septet for a few projects, before reducing to a piano trio with 2017’s Paint. While their means of execution might have changed, several elements continue to give them a distinct profile. One is bassist Moppa Elliott, who pens all of the band’s music and names each unique piece after a town in Pennsylvania. Kevin Shea occasionally threatens to chew up the scenery at the drums, but he always imbues the music with equal parts swing and spasms. Pianist Ron Stabinsky, who has played with the group for about a decade, rounds out the lineup.
Thematically, the eight compositions on Disasters Vol. 1 are named for towns in the Keystone State that have experienced calamities such as fires, floods, or mining accidents. Elliott appears to have borrowed some of the best elements of hard bop this time around; in fact, several of these groovy melodies wouldn’t be out of place in the Blue Note catalog. But, as usual, it’s all in the delivery. The trio runs wild, often shifting the focus of a tune several times within a chorus. When Stabinsky and Elliott create some syncopated fun in “Dimmock,” Shea shifts to electronic percussion before playing some fills on the traps that sound intentionally clunky and hilarious. Sometimes Shea overdoes it, sounding less like he’s playing than setting up and testing his drums (“Boyertown”) or dropping them down a flight of stairs (“Marcus Hook”). It might border on the excessive at times, but in the big picture, the trio’s screwball sense of fun helps to remind us why this music was fun in the first place.