Moppa Elliott’s Mostly Other People Do the Killing
Presents Loafer’s Hollow
Septet CD to be released February 24, 2017 on Hot Cup Records
Featuring: Steven Bernstein (Grammy nominated leader of Sex Mob), Jon Irabagon (Winner of the Thelonious Monk Intl. Saxophone Competition), Dave Taylor (NARAS Most Valuable Player Award), Brandon Seabrook (2012 Best Guitarist, Village Voice), Ron Stabinsky (piano), Moppa Elliott (DownBeat Rising Star Composer, Bassist, Arranger), Kevin Shea (2012 Best Drummer, Village Voice)
• DownBeat Critics’ Poll Winners: Rising Star Ensemble • El Intruso Jazz Group of the Year • El Intruso Best Band to See Live
“After more than ten years, Mostly Other People Do the Killing sounds better than ever; reinvigorated, mischievous and perhaps more willing to take a deep breath in the midst of these multifaceted works.” – Karl Ackerman, All About Jazz
“If you thought the comic avant-garde free-jazz quartet Mostly Other People Do the Killing went off the deep end years ago, it just found a deeper spot.” – Steve Greenlee, Jazz Times
“…uber-talented musicians who have fun with jazz tradition and the music itself.” – Kirk Silsbee, DownBeat
Loafer’s Hollow is an attempt by Elliott to concentrate the style of MOPDtK by squeezing more musical material into a smaller space. With hopes of encouraging listeners to engage with the album as a whole in this random-access era, the album clocks in at just over 40 minutes with compositions that are compact and dense but still allow the members of the ensemble to freely interpret the music. Whereas the first MOPDtK septet album, Red Hot, was directly influenced by the jazz and blues recordings of the 1920s and early ‘30s, Loafer’s Hollow owes a great debt to the music of the swing era, and Count Basie’s many ensembles in particular. From the use of the piano as a melodic instrument to the wide assortment of mutes employed by the brass players, the sounds of the 1930s and 40s big bands and “swing song” tradition is constantly referenced. Of course, this being a Mostly Other People Do the Killing album, there are innumerable other musical references waiting to be discovered by the astute listener.
With pieces written in homage to such ground-breaking literary figures as Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace, Elliott’s obvious choice was to title the album “Library” after a town south of Pittsburgh, PA. After some research, it turned out that the town of Library had an interesting history, having been known as Loafer’s Hollow before the first library in the area was built there in 1833, lending the album its even more evocative, though equally apt, new name.
The “literary suite” opens with “Bloomsburg,” dedicated to James Joyce and the central character from his novel Ulysses, Leopold Bloom. Elliott based the melody on the closing lines of Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy, which ends the novel as she drifts off to sleep. The brass players take turns trading fours while constantly changing mutes, creating a musical exchange that sounds like many more than two people. “Kilgore” is dedicated to Elliott’s favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, and his frequently recurring character, Kilgore Trout. Trout plays a central role in many Vonnegut novels, culminating in his appearance alongside the author in Timequake. Trombonist Dave Taylor shares Elliott’s love of Vonnegut’s novels, so it was inevitable that Elliott would feature him prominently (and in the lowest possible octave) on this tune.
The reclusive author Thomas Pynchon often weaves songs in the form of lyrics into his novels, and in at least one instance named a novel after something Pennsylvania-related. Mason and Dixon is Pynchon’s fictional account of the British surveyors who mapped the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, and like many of his novels, the characters often break into song. Elliott took one of these tuneless songs and composed a melody to fit Pynchon’s lyrics. The track begins with a piano solo that originates from the harmony of “Kilgore” and works its way to “Mason and Dixon” featuring solos by Seabrook and Irabagon that dovetail seamlessly.
“Meridian” is based on the final passage of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and a ruthless character referred to only as “The Judge.” While the ending of the novel is dark and menacing, Elliott’s melody is wistful and nostalgic. The opening chorale-like section gives way to bridge of the tune before making space for Steven Bernstein, intent on exploring the lower range of a trumpet he had recently brought back from the West coast.
In David Foster Wallace’s epic novel Infinite Jest, it is mentioned in passing that one of the minor characters grew up in a town called Glen Riddle, PA. Upon consulting his handy Pennsylvania state atlas (kept in his piano bench) Elliott realized that no such town exists. The melody to this composition named after a nonexistent Pennsylvania town was inspired by the ending of the novel wherein one of the central characters (a recovering addict) recalls “hitting bottom.” Infinite Jest explores the idea of information overload or having too much of a good thing and has been a major influence on the music and members of MOPDtK for several years.
Outside of the suite, the first two pieces, “Hi-Nella” and “Honey Hole,” jump rapidly from section to section, featuring the banjo and electronics of Brandon Seabrook in addition to an epic cadenza from Steven Bernstein and solos from Jon Irabagon and Dave Taylor. The album closes with a composition entitled “Five (Corners, Points, Forks)” after three towns in Pennsylvania whose names share the same first word. The composition begins with a single theme that gradually expands as different members of the ensemble each take turns stating it. The players are instructed to play no low notes in an attempt to simulate the sound of low-fi recordings from the 1920s. Once the band is all in, the lower frequencies appear as a contrast to the earlier sections. Elliott was inspired to write this piece after listening to Jelly Roll Morton’s music and wishing that it had been possible to record those pieces with booming bass frequencies.
Over the past thirteen years, MOPDtK has earned a place at the forefront of jazz and improvised music, performing in a style that is at once rooted in the jazz tradition and highly improvised and unstructured. Their initial albums explored the intersection between common practice hard-bop compositions and free improvisation, incorporating a kaleidoscopic wealth of other influences from pop music to the classical European repertoire. In 2010, Elliott expanded the group’s framework and began exploring specific eras of jazz, resulting in 2011’s Slippery Rock (an investigation of smooth jazz and fusion styles) and 2012’s Red Hot (featuring an expanded lineup recalling the jazz and blues recordings of the late 1920s and early 1930s).
2014 saw the release of Blue, a note-for-note recreation of Miles Davis’ classic album, Kind of Blue that evoked a wide range of strong responses from both the public and critics and will likely be a part of the discussion of the state of jazz in the 21st century for years to come. In 2015, the band returned to a quartet format for the album Mauch Chunk, which explored the hard-bop styles common in the 1950s. Since the release of Mauch Chunk, all four members of the core quartet have released solo recordings including Moppa Elliott’s Still, Up In the Air, and pianist Ron Stabinsky’s Free For One, both on Hot Cup Records.
Jon Irabagon works with Dave Douglas, Mary Halvorson, and Rudy Royston in addition to leading his own ensembles. He recently showcased his versatility by releasing a daring solo sopranino saxophone recording, Inaction is an Action and a straight-ahead jazz quintet recording on his Irabagast Records Label.
Dave Taylor is one of the most recorded bass trombonists in history. He has performed and recorded with everyone from Duke Ellington and Gil Evans to The Village People and Sting.
Brandon Seabrook was named “Best Guitarist in New York” by the Village Voice and performs in a wide variety of contexts from traditional jazz to experimental noise-rock. His band Seabrook Power Plant recently released their second album.
Pianist Ron Stabinsky first joined MOPDtK in 2013 as part of a project at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam commemorating the anniversary of Eric Dolphy and Booker Little Live at the Five Spot. In addition to his work with MOPDtK, Stabinsky is an accompanist in virtually every possible context from classical recitals, to community choirs, to improvised music, jazz, pop, and rock. Stabinsky lives in Plains, PA and is a member of the Peter Evans Quartet and Quintet, Charles Evans Quartet (no relation), and recently recorded his first solo album Free For One on Hot Cup Records.
Kevin Shea was named “Best Drummer in New York” by the Village Voice and regularly tours with the noise-rock-improv duo, Talibam! Shea recently released a third album with the band People featuring Mary Halvorson.
Bassist Moppa Elliott teaches music at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, NY and double bass and trombone at the Long Island Conservatory. He also produces and releases albums on Hot Cup Records including his solo bass recording Still, Up in the Air.