Zony Mash: Farewell Shows (2004)
The Hammond B3 organ and the Rhodes electric piano must possess a sorcerer's charm. Keyboardists in every genre, especially in jazz, have fallen under the sway of these instruments since their emergence in the '60s, often to point of distraction. Downtown NYC veteran Wayne Horvitz is no exception, and his Seattle based Zony Mash mixed up classic boogaloo with smatterings of prog, stomp rock and Charles Earland funk grinders. These shows, recorded on December 12, 2003 in their hometown, represent the last official gasp from Horvitz, Tim Young (guitar), Andy Roth (drums) and Keith Lowe (bass), though the same lineup now plays acoustic jazz as Sweeter Than The Day.
At its best, this set grooves with more grit than many of their contemporaries dabbling in the same small pool. To be honest, there's just not that much range to a sub-genre Brother Jack McDuff started decades ago. Given the inherent limitations, one must assume this stuff has to be a king-sized ball to play. When the Mash is on they have a bendy, mercurial touch, full of drainpipe spin and Zigaboo Modeliste drums. There's undeniable warmth to Horvitz's hand-me-down organ and piano, the latter slipping into an accent one can't quite place rather than the usual your-soaking-in-it Turkish Bath approach. Yet, this often feels too clean; nice lines but missing many identifying characteristics.
Part of the problem is the players don't get dirty like they do in other settings. Young, as restrained as the early John Scofield here, shows none of the rock-fusion bravado he displays in new trio Thrust, and one would never know Lowe holds down the metal low-end in out there Crack Sabbath, one of busy saxophonist Skerik's many projects. It's funky but smart funky. When they do toss in a handful of dirt, things get more interesting, but they do this only a few times on either disc. They change up the pace well throughout so things rarely bog down. "Capricious Midnight" is a skyscraper snake dance that belies Horvitz's roots with Zorn and the other downtown kids in bands like The President, and "Triggerfingers" has a nifty Soft Machine strut.
For B3 fans looking for a solid modern interpretation of a classic sound, or Medeski Martin & Wood fans seeking more of the same, this final outing from Zony Mash should do the trick. But it's not quite what one could have hoped for from a quartet with this much potential and instrumental prowess.
Track Listing: Disc One: FYI, Diggin Bones, Easy, Rotholz Caberet, Let's Get Mashed, Smiles, Inference, The Last Song, Upper Egypt, I'm Sorry, Sex Fiend
Disc Two: Meet The Zony Mash, Slide By, Rip Off, Capricious Midnight, Triggerfingers, Prudence RSVP, Brand Spankin New, Spice Rack
Personnel: Wayne Horvitz (Hammond B3, Rhodes electric piano), Tim Young (guitar), Andy Roth (drums) and Keith Lowe (bass)