Steuart Liebig Tee-Tot Quartet: Always Outnumbered (2008)
The latest concoction from bassist Steuart Liebig is a conglomeration of progressive jazz and American roots music. An unlikely combo indeed, yet the leader and his quartet pull it off and make it all sound quite endearing and vibrant, to complement the organic attributes devised within the acoustic-electric format.
On this extravaganza, cornetist Dan Clucas summons imagery of 1920's hornist Bix Beiderbecke, coupled with dobro player Scot Ray's boisterous jazz-blues phrasings. However, it's Leibig who clearly shines as the director of operations here, as his fluidly pumping lines anchor the variable flows along with drummer Joseph Berardi's snappy groove attack.
At times, one thinks of an unlikely fusion of vintage jazz and bop, forming some sort of oddball alliance with blues-rock. With that, the band morphs into a continuum of wily arrangements that intermittently straddle the free zone. On "Cleaned, Shaved and Sober," Ray's weepy slide riffs provide a rather eerie contrast to Clucas' lamenting lines. It all rings like one of those after-hours jam sessions, where everyone is feeling the effects of boozing and storytelling.
Lucid imagery comes to the forefront throughout, when the group also kicks out the proverbial jams via rollicking and rolling jazz-rock vamps. Otherwise, the musicians stream the avant element into select passages, which is a facet that adds a notch of zaniness to this wildly entertaining set, dappled with knotty time signatures and a few barn-burning style meltdowns.
In sum, Liebeig has a seemingly endless bag of tricks at his disposal. Like an expert chess player, we can only try and anticipate his next move.
Track Listing: 07-04-00; Serenade; Wrong How Long; Stutterstep; Fearless; Clean, Shaved and Sober; Bobtail; Cooked and Chopped; Chucktown; Mercy Kitchen; Sunshine Candy; Barrelfoot Grind; Lonewolf.
Personnel: Joseph Berardi: drumset, percussion; Dan Clucas: cornet; Scot Ray: dobro; Steuart Liebig: contrabassguitar.