Monday, April 7, 2014

Album Review: Mike Dillon's Band of Outsiders

I spent much of the weekend attending showcases by hip-hop and punk musicians at Ink's Middle of the Map Fest.  With the possible exception of two or three bookings including the Jorge Arana Trio, jazz-based artists were not among the 120 acts featured at the three-day festival.

The glaring omission might have been filled in part by Mike Dillon.  His new album Band of Outsiders is a potent blend of jazz, punk and jam band elements. 

Dillon has spent a significant portion of his career playing jazz-inspired music in rock-oriented venues in Kansas City.  Tom Waits and Frank Zappa are obvious reference points, but I've long thought of Dillon's sound as Lionel Hampton jamming with the Minutemen.  And because the new album features the exciting young trombonist Carly Meyers, the influence of J.J. Johnson is now an integral part of the mix.  (Meyers is featured in a 2013 performance with Dillon at St. Louis' KDHX here.)

Dillon and his partners in crime play jazz with sharp elbows.

I love attending jazz performances at refined clubs and concert halls.  Yet last weekend served as another reminder that jostling with dance-minded celebrants at crowded nightclubs is exhilarating.  When I listen to the earliest recordings of Kansas City jazz pioneers ranging from Bennie Moten to Charlie Parker, I sense a visceral sense of danger.  Much of today's jazz lacks that populist sense of immediacy.

Dillon's new album helps reestablish jazz's neglected connection to the functional music of the street.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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