Disaster Relief – “Disaster Relief” (2018) review

June 27, 2018

Disaster Relief – “Disaster Relief” (2018) review

Disaster Relief – Disaster Relief (Ravine Records, 2018) review
If ever there were a genre to help humanity pry off this rancid, all-consuming layer of disaster and gloom from our lives, it would be funk. And well, jazz-funk is the next closest thing—with a sprinkling of brooding patience and sophistication. Disaster Relief, a jazz band from Ann Arbor, Michigan just recently debuted their self titled album, and it’s got all the best ingredients for a thrilling, upbeat listen.

With phenomenally formidable brass section, the opening track is firm, tight, controlled. “Downtown F#@karound” comes right out of the gates in flashy frills. It’s clear: these guys are professionals. Big band percussion rides smooth and supportive, buttressing tenor sax and lightly plucked guitar. No more than a minute in and we get a devilish solo. Polyphonies collapse. Notes bend. The modal subversions are juice and crispy.
“Too Soon For June” again hits us with the power of horns. Rattling, loud-mouthed melodies ping and pang off one another. An organ sits right below the surface, pulsating. It’s pure acrobatics.
But the in-your-face celebratory energy takes a seat for a moment in “September Skunk,” a track that begins in a delicate place, somewhere hesitant. Dissonance and disorder casually crawl across the stage before a concoction of muted guitar and trumpet point us toward something familiar, even locomotive.
The sweet spots that Disaster Relief consistently keep hitting lie in this sacred balance of satisfying and sabotaging expectations. “March Wind,” “Transplant,” and “August Addiction” serve as brilliant specimens—that succulent tenderness of destabilization. Not quite what you wanted? Good. You’re getting something even better.
-Gabe Kahan
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