The Mad Metcalf Ensemble - "Resurrection - Reservations Only"
(Zzaj Productions 2001, ZP-50)
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
Here's one for veteran Rotcod Zzaj (aka Dick Metcalf) fans who want to hear some archival material. Resurrection includes music from 1982, some tracks recorded live at the GNU Deli coffeehouse in Olympia, Washington, and others recorded at the home of keyboard player John Alkins. Zzaj contributes piano on one track but is prominent throughout delivering spontaneous spoken word. In addition to Zzaj and Alkins are Andy Woodruff on trumpet, harmonica, and ballon (whatever that is), Bob Heywood on trumpet, drums, and percussion, Mark Vale on drums, percussion, and piano, Jolie Bernstein on voice and flute, Chari Bernstein on voice and newspaper (yeah, newspaper), and Dena Manis making an unspecified contribution on painting and colors.
The music throughout consists of a free-wheeling, often frenzied, form of avant-garde free-jazz, with a real Beat generation feel due to Zzaj's spoken word rants. The highlights of the set are the mightily impressive piano playing and drumming that will appeal to fans of the Arkestra's wilder moments. My favorites include "Boogie 2", "Camel Pact", and "Get Yo Head Out Of It". I love the chaotic free-jazz jamming feel of these tracks. "Boogie 2" is a standout with impressive interplay between the trumpet, piano, and drums, jamming wildly as Zzaj unleashes his rant. On "Camel Pact" the piano take center stage, seemingly free-versing along with Zzaj's spoken word, while a banquet of percussive rattles and shakers add a theatrical intensity to the proceedings. Actually the piano alone is intense, blazing along at a frenzied hyperactive pace. "Inter(rudely)rupted" is another solid track. I really like the keyboard sound on this jam, the whole atmosphere sounding a lot like current San Francisco band Mushroom, but perhaps a little deeper into avant garde free-jazz territory. The tune meanders somewhat chaotically throughout its 11 minute length, but it sounds and feels so good it that its ended up as another of my favorite tracks on the disc.
Prior to hearing Resurrection I think the most spoken word I've heard from Rotcod Zzaj was on his Psychedelic Landscapes collaboration with Ernesto Diaz-Infante. So it's been nice hearing healthy doses of his cosmic rants that go so well with the 80's Olympia, WA arts community's brand of free-jazz. Check it out.
For more information you can visit the Zzaj productions web site at: http://www.reachone.com/rotcod/.
Contact via snail mail c/o Zzaj Productions; 5806 Armour Drive; Lacey, WA 98513.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz