There’s real beauty in several of these 22 bite-size compositions.
Kevin Le Gendre 2011
Given its status as serious music, jazz is not readily associated with humour. Yet many merry pranksters have dotted its history over time, the obvious candidate being John Birks ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie. The rub is that his clowning did not lead to any musical fool’s gold, quite the opposite in fact.
The Money Notes is also funny and counterfeit-free. Leeds pianist Matthew Bourne has form in this respect, having already produced imaginative solo work in which snippets of puckish Disney dialogue slotted deftly into well-crafted melodic and harmonic movements. In 2008 Bourne joined forces with double bassist Dave Kane and drummer Steve Davis and released Lost Something, an album that supplemented the structural trickery of both swing and avant-garde schools with a cunning use of ghostly samples.
This new set is a consolidation of the trio’s blend of artistry and antics, the most riotous of which is the hyper provocative Utter Contempt for All Those Who Scat Whilst Soloing, in which the frenzied yelps, wails and moans of all three members mercilessly lampoon improvisers whose muse compels them to sing what they play. Rib-tickling as it is, more skilful irreverence awaits elsewhere, above all in the concise smash and grab nature of several songs, none more so than the opening BDK Theme, which starts in a sunny, jaunty, Nina-Simone’s-baby-just-cares-for-Brubeck groove before abruptly grinding to a halt after which the players morph into growlers who then let fly a volley of faux diva falsetto. The quick-fire movement from one part to the next and the sheer boisterous nature of the delivery have a kind of Buster Keaton overtone, and the bite sized nature of the set of 22 pieces, many of which are under a minute long, fully reinforces that.
Yet there is real beauty in several compositions, often by way of graceful, slow-moving melodies in which the theme unfolds with the tantalising, slightly fraught majesty that suggests an icy, haunted take on Ramsey Lewis’ bluesy soul. In the middle of the slapstick there is thus highly accomplished performing, which ain’t no new thing in jazz.