East West Quintet - don't be fooled by the name. This genre-bending ensemble from Brooklyn, NY is more likely to rock than to swing, utilizes both acoustic and electronic instruments, and is commonly found performing with not five but six band members.
Formed in 2003 as a hard-bop ensemble in the mold of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, the group quickly changed course, incorporating musical elements from their early punk, rock, and hip-hop experiences. Through years of experimentation and growth, the band has come into it's own, divorcing itself from being jazz-rock, rock-jazz or any other clumsy musical description. Simply stated, East West Quintet is a compellingly powerful band that lies outside of conventional boundaries and appeals to listeners of all kinds. The ensemble consists of Dylan Heaney, saxophones; Simon Kafka, guitars; Mike Cassedy, keyboards; Ben Campbell, bass; Jordan Perlson, drums.
On their new album, Vast (Native Language Music, June 23 release), the band approached the recording process much the same as a rock band would. Given a week in Sounden Studios and the opportunity to record to 2-inch tape, the Quintet was able to augment their core sound with layers of additional instruments and effects, framing the more spontaneous jazz elements in a lushly produced sonic backdrop more reminiscent of Jon Brion than something from the Blue Note catalog.
The album's opener, The Triumph," builds from a simple guitar melody into a full-scale rock anthem powered by a John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) replica drum set. Recorded in a marble building lobby with 30-foot ceilings, these drums blend with driving acoustic bass and distorted guitar to create an unapologetically hard rock sound. This simple, yet subtly complex song sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The title track is EWQ at it's best. Saxophonist Dylan Heaney and drummer Jordan Perlson play off each other with the reckless abandon of the 60's Coltrane Quartet while the rest of the band lays down a Radiohead-style dirge. Guitar loops, electronic samples, and Kaoss Pad textures combine to give the track added depth and intensity.
The final song, Brooklyn," is an extended composition, somewhat Ellingtonian in it's many sections and location-inspired moods, yet the band updates this formula using modern harmonies and textures. A mysterious Rhodes melody and soulful back-beat are blended with enhanced production elements that include field recordings and unusual sound capturing methods, evoking Jimi Hendrix and later Beatles records. This 12-minute adventure is a tribute to the borough the band inhabits and draws its inspiration from.
The rest of the album features a diverse set of compositions, ranging from the fast-paced energy of Catalyst" to the relaxed ambience of Over the Falls" and the sub-woofer-friendly Gangster Rap."
From start to finish, Vast defies categorization and represents what East West Quintet is all about: memorable compositions, strong production, spontaneous improvisation and ultimately, an amazing listening experience.
East West Quintet has been featured on NPR's Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater, NPR's Open Mic, and on Jazz and Indie Radio nationwide.