With a lineup featuring accomplished jazz organist Joe Doria and saxophone legend Skerik, "The McTuff Quartet," as the group formally calls itself, promises some world-class virtuosity. Volume 1 delivers. The songs average about eight minutes each, and every song is, unsurprisingly, mostly soloing.
But it's thanks to Doria's composition that the album isn't simply a showcase of soloists - it's also a collection of well-written songs. Its dynamics are thought out and tweaked to perfection, an impressive feat considering the amount of improvisation.
"Seven Bullets" is a good example: structured like a sandwich, the song starts and ends with a groovy riff on Hammond organ, with a few killer jazz heads in the middle that in turn surround a solo section, which detours into an polka-sounding romp before coming around. Reaching the end of the nearly 10-minute song, I thought, "Wait, is that riff really from this same song?"
A lesser group would have played so many transitions in an either choppy or heavy-handed way, but the expressive blend of solos and accompaniment make for songs that don't just jerk the listener around awkwardly - it's groovy and engaging all the way through. - Coby Tamayo
Coby Tamayo is the local music director at KUPS 90.1FM "The Sound" on the University of Puget Sound campus in Tacoma.