Basher has frequently been described as a “free jazz party band”. That might seem like a bold challenge to listeners’ expectations – because it is. The five-piece group merrily mingles tightly composed pop grooves with improvised explorations of sound and space, plus a heavy dose of street-music influences from their native New Orleans. Preconceptions and genre categories are hurled out of the window. It’s a party. No clipboards or box-ticking allowed.
The album’s title reflects the doubled-up instrumentation on this record. Tenor saxophonist Byron Asher and alto saxophonist Aurora Nealand team up to tackle the reeds. Daniel Meinecke contributes (at least) two synths. Drummers Zach Rhea and Brad Webb handle the percussion. Together, they boogie and slow-dance across musical boundaries in lockstep.
Primetime-A-Go-Go opens with Meinecke laying down a synth bassline beneath a long-tone melodic shape from the saxes. There’s a New Orleans flavour to the chorus part, then the funky horns scamper up into the altissimo range to strain at the compositional leash. The drummers keep the party pumping throughout.
The group’s free-jazz chops get plenty of time in the spotlight. Borealis is the longest example. Asher’s tenor squirts haphazard shapes before punches of synth join the fun. They gather volume and force, picking up Nealand’s alto saxophone along the way. Patterns grow and intertwine, then recede as if nothing ever happened.
Basher brings together sensitive and skilful improvisers who play with a neat blend of honesty and irony. This album has something to move your feet, your heart and your head. Listeners will simply need to check their expectations at the door. It’s a party. Just enjoy it.
Diana; Primetime-A-Go-Go; Artemis; Claptrap Clapback; Ponchatoula; Bacchus; Step Pyramid; Zephyr; Carnival 2019; Borealis; Refinery Skies (42.00)
Aurora Nealand (as); Byron Asher (ts); Daniel Meinecke (syn); Zach Rhea (d); Brad Webb (d). New Orleans, 2022.
Sinking City Records