Some fool from a newspaper in North Carolina has called the Motion Poets "a brainy version of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers." This is akin to describing a hot baseball prospect as "Babe Ruth with speed." Obviously, MP doesn't swing with the dynamic propulsion of Blakey's groups--precious few bands in jazz history have. But, hyperbole aside, Standard Of Living expands on the promise of MP's debut, Truth and Consequences, and proves this sextet can abet its talent with an ensemble synergy that warrants national recognition.
Quality compositions are the hallmark of Standard Of Living. All six bandmembers contribute individually written tunes, and none of the 11 tracks are merely head arrangements with solos or yet another variation on "I Got Rhythm." The best of them course with discovery, delighting in simple but innovative harmonies and suite-like shifts in tempo. For example, the title song opens with bowed bass and muted brass bleeding together in chamber tones that are both gorgeous and claustrophobically creepy, until Doug Little's flute airs out the tune like a pleasant ghost and evolves the piece into a striking harmonic showcase for flute and bass (written by the trumpet player--typical of the group's compositional generosity of spirit). Another highlight is "Static," which has a frenetic lyricism reminiscent of the old Mingus-schooled Pullen-Adams Band, blending the bop tradition with dissonant mischief and fractured song structures. Whether they are extending a pensive piano solo beyond the length of the group's interplay on "Change Must Come," or settling into an established groove so trombonist Mark Miller can blow to his (and our) heart's content, Motion Poets find that sweet zone where individual expression and group experimentation coalesce. It's a unique virtue that should only get better with time--and the oldest member of the band is 27.
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