Octagon Eightette: Crusader Stomp (2003)
In a deliciously inventive move some of the greatest players in the world of improvisation have come together in a program that grabs the blues, gospel, jazz and country music and shakes them up thoroughly. Concepts have been blown to the winds and harmony thoroughly deconstructed. How did it come about? Let Geordie "Wanker" Bushhead do the talking. "Sunday mornin' I was comin' down the steps of my church when I was blinded by the light. At first I thought it was the sun but with snow falling heavily I thought, lordy this must be some greatest power. It sure was when I saw some actual American tunes on two tablets of stone asking me to record them. But you know what? I came up with the band name all by my lonesome self!"
The opening tune is a three-part suite. "Slick" Dick Shane blows a melancholy, and sometimes gooey, air on the nose flute leading the way for the didgeridoo. The atmosphere is quietly chilling before the "Son" comes in on muted trombone playing a slow blues, Smokin' Jon Hashcraft counterpoints with short jabs and Condomfreeza slaps out chord heavy boogie. The whole band comes together in the glove of collective improvisation on "Oily Spirit" with Bushhead blowing some torrid riffs and smears on trombone. At the end of it all, Condomfreeza exults throatily, "Man, I love the way you slide that 'bone!"
"Crusader Stomp" is a march neatly laid down by Tony "Bleedin' Piles" Baloney as the rest of the band stamps their feet in unison. Nothing else happens. They see the light with gospel fervor. Bushhead begins to clap in slow deliberation and as Donny "Boom Boom" Rumpswell exposes the melody on the soprano, Baloney drums with his hands; Bushhead soon triggers the pace creating palpable tension with a series of stratospheric jabs that ignites the gang into a hail of hallelujahs.
The French horn is the instrument of choice as Bushhead leads in his version of "Caravan." The pace is frenzied, and in a riveting moment he breaks into song, "I soon will be, the Sheik of Araby" as the others add a "Doo doo wop, doo doo wop."
"Ascension" is played on the harp. As one listens it is clear that Coltrane had nothing to do with it even though he is credited as composer. Well, visions differ and "Resolution" unleashes combined screeches and wails from the horns. Geoffrey "Ganja" Goon plays arco and Shane deliberates through two choruses on the nose flute. "I hate dates!" yells Bushhead as "Strange Fruit" opens and Condomfreeza Price cavorts into a heady boogaloo.
The oud heralds "April in Paris." This has a sprightly air but it will be remembered for the vocal improvisation. "April in Paris/ That's Where I'll Be/The People of France/Will be waving at me,& quot; croons Bushhead. "Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh/ April in Paris/Your vision is true/The people of Paris/ Will be eager for you," chimes in Baloney as the others erupt, "They'll love you yeah, yeah, yeah, they'll love you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahhhh!"
And as much as art imitates life, this one is a blast.
Track Listing: The Father, Son and the Oily Spirit; Crusader Stomp; I'm Beginning to See the Light; Caravan; Ascension; Resolution; Strange Fruit; April in Paris
Personnel: Geordie "Wanker" Bushhead-trombone, French Horn, harp and vocals; "Slick" Dick Shane-nose flute and oud; Geoffrey "Ganja" Goon-bass; Tony "Bleedin' Piles" Baloney-drums and vocals; Condomfreeza Price-piano; Smokin' Jon Hashcraft-trumpet; Donny "Boom Boom" Rumpswell- saxophones; Jackie Strawman - didgeridoo
Record Label: Tangledbush Music