JZ Replacement – Disrespectful
(Rainy Days Records. CD review by Fiona Mactaggart)
The startling orange and lime-coloured acid-grunge-style album cover immediately gives notice that something a bit punky and fresh is in the offing. Furthermore, could it be that the choice of album title intimates the band is well aware they are evolving beyond the purview of their respected jazz forefathers?
JZ Replacement is a co-led duo consisting of English emerging-star drummer Jamie Murray (a Sun Ra Arkestra alumnus) and St Petersburg resident, maverick alto saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev (Eric Harland, Ambrose Akinmusire) and is a felicitous expansion of the former’s solo endeavour, Beat Replacement. Having heard Murray and Strigalev play together live a few weeks ago, this reviewer can vouch for the fullness of the duo sound, nevertheless for this album they have invited Strigalev’s sometime collaborator, bassist Tim Lefebvre (Mark Guiliana, David Bowie) along for the ride. Lefebvre’s bass embellishments and electronic effects respectively synergise with and often soften the edges of the sound, taking it into pleasingly strange places and possibly making the fundamentally jazz/jazz-rock sounds attractive also to a marginally younger, club-going audience.
All but one track are composed solely by Strigalev, the album demonstrating his ongoing development as a composer of note alongside being one of the most technically sparkling and emotionally intense improvising alto saxophonists of his generation. Murray is clearly a great choice of partner, interfacing precisely with the altoist’s often ferociously intense and fast playing. In fact, Murray brings his own fire to the mix, together with his obviously broad musical spectrum, including rhythmic inspirations and love of fearless improvisation. Their combined energy is remarkable.
The album consists of seven tracks, the opener Displacement A is a rhythmically peripatetic and at times frenetic showcase of each musician’s skill, with Lefebvre’s electronics having a mood lightening effect as in his appealing The Clanger’s-style coda.
Meanwhile in second track Tubuka, a jaunty Stigalev brings Polar Bear’s Pete Wareham to this particular listener’s mind, before treating us to some extended sax skirling, supported by Lefebvre’s handsome bass and electronics and Murray’s engulfing spider-web of hyperactive rhythms.
Third track Guilty Look 3, co-composed with Radhika De Saram, Pink Panther-like in its slow stealth gives everyone a short rest, but still delivers some nice, measured and heavy rhythms as Lefebvre’s buzz of electronics builds overhead.
Bee Bee returns to the default breakneck tempo, with Strigalev’s repeating motifs often in tight unison with Murray’s drums and especially cymbals, the waves of acceleration and allargando pinned securely by Lefebvre’s bass. Some very tight ensemble playing, for all the pervasive sense of freedom.
Another brief piece, Marmalade For Radhika, helpfully paces the album, with its very free, spacious sax and drums, whilst Five Cymbals For Jamie is another exercise in impeccably precise ensemble playing, leaving the listener pondering just how many hours of practice it took to achieve such exactitude.
The album ends with the short and speedy Take The JZ Train, replete with humorously bird-like sax squawks introducing more helter-skelter, bass-mirrored sax and skittish drums.
This is a satisfyingly individualistic, creative and questing album, the smidgeons of lyricism and humour leavening the emotional intensity and machine-gun dexterity. Thanks to Covid-19, the second half of JZ Replacement’s current tour has unfortunately had to be cancelled, so this could just be the perfect time for us to show the love by, if we can, purchasing our favourites’ albums.
Fiona Mactaggart lives in Edinburgh, plays drums and writes about music on Scottish Jazz Space.
Disrespectful was released on 13 March 2020 and is available on vinyl, CD, cassette and digital.