NoiZe ConTrol,
Not Your Father's Jazz
(bIg NoiZe mUsic, 1996)

In Kingston, most of the best musicians tend to play in everyone else's band, creating a melting pot milieu in which every band starts sound about like every other. This is true even in the supposedly more free-wheeling genre of jazz.

The members of NoiZe ConTrol -- Mike Cassells, Scot Mulligan, Richard Zanibbi and Clyde Forsberg -- are some of Kingston's finest musicians, and are among that melting pot crowd, each a member of a potpourri of bands in various genres. The very talent that leads a musician to be sought out by band leaders, the very hunger for exposure that leads a musician to accept position upon position, is the same as tends to encourage conformity and mediocrity in the artist.

So, although the talents of each of these four musicians often shine through the performances of some bands with which they play, it still comes as a surprise to hear the excellence that Not Your Father's Jazz epitomizes. This may in large part be the consequence of the composition and direction of Mike Cassells.

This title is a bit obscure. One wonders whose father is meant. I know many young people -- and older people too, I will allow -- who would not understand or appreciate this music. Yet I am surely old enough to be somebody's father -- perhaps even grandfather -- and this is definitely my jazz. Still what matters is the music -- and that is wonderful.

Although this recording is largely the baby of Mike Cassells, a drummer, I am largely struck by the sounds of Clyde Forsberg on trumpet. This is a Clyde Forsberg I have not heard before -- a wild yet groovy sound reminiscent of the recordings Freddie Hubbard was releasing 25 years ago. There is in these pieces a spirituality of sound to the trumpet that moves the soul.

I will admit that, although I have long been a fan of Scot Mulligan's bass playing live, I often have trouble hearing the bass in this recording. When I do hear it, it is at just the right spot and in just the right way. Mulligan appears to have found just the right groove to enhance the sounds his colleagues are putting out without overriding them.

As with Mulligan's bass, Richard Zanibbi's guitar seems to stay in the background until just exactly when it is needed to fulfill the potential of a particular piece. The professionalism of Zanibbi is unquestionable, and his guitar provides the underpinning of many of these pieces while the trumpet and drums get in their freelance licks.

As a drummer, Mike Cassells cannot be faulted. In some of these pieces he exercises virtuoso turns of which the great drummers of the '40s and '50s would be proud. In others, he is the consummate backup drummer, providing the rhythmic base against which the others play.

And as a composer, Cassells is phenomenal. Or else, he has lucked out with three partners in music who know exactly how to present his compositions in their best light. Maybe it's a bit of both. However it works, the result is music that will last through the decades.

And, hey, who's that on keys? It's not listed in the credits but it shows up here and there, especially on the final cut -- and it sounds great! Could that be recording engineer Duncan Holt, himself a drummer, but also competent on the keyboard?

There is a nice balance in this CD. Although it is the creature of the composer and drummer, Cassells, in different tracks each musician has the opportunity to stand out and show his stuff. Knowing these musicians in a variety of environments, it is great to see them each performing at their best and most creative with some wonderful music to work around, and without worrying about pleasing some audience.

One may only hope that Cassells will have the sense to send copies of this CD to as many radio stations, TV talk shows and musical artists as he can discover the addresses of, so that we can see the music of him and his colleagues achieve national exposure. If they can turn out this sort of quality, they deserve it.

[ by Bob MacKenzie ]