I’m happy to announce that another small swinging group of hot-jazz-plus individualists exists, and there’s recorded evidence to prove their ability to spread good sounds. This new band’s motto is CRIMINALLY GOOD MUSIC, and their cover picture is of leader Jack Ray, furtively walking off with a plastic milk crate that wasn’t his a minute before but is his now. But since you can’t listen to a plastic box, the band has released a debut EP:
And you needn’t fear Jack and friends: all they want would be your ears. The MCB is an international band: Jack (who plays tenor banjo, sings, and composes) has rounded up some Vancouver friends — string bassist Jen Hodge and reedman Connor Stewart among them — and the New Orleans trumpet star Kevin Louis — to make a disc that has wonderful echoes of songs and swing but ultimately has its own distinctive personality.
There is a good deal that initially sounds familiar on this disc: New Orleans street rhythms, the prominence of the banjo — which in this case, is an excellent thing, since Jack truly knows how to play it. But the MCB offer pleasing surprises to even the most jaded listener. Many of the originals here seem for a moment to borrow a cadence or two from jazz classics, but if you blink, the echo is gone and the song has gone its own way, refreshingly. The instrumental voicings, as well, move in and out of the familiar, and for those wanting to know Who or What this band “sounds like,” I kept thinking of Gordon Au and the Grand Street Stompers, and those who know me will know that is high praise. But there’s also a distinct folk flavor here (it doesn’t get in the way of the swing, lest you worry) and by the time I’d played the disc twice, I had come to think of Jack and friends as writers of musical vignettes: each one brief, memorable, quirky, unpredictable.
They deserve an attentive (although gleeful) listen.
Here‘s their Facebook page and website. You can see videos of the band in action here and buy / download their CD here. Every human need (at least as far as it relates to the lively music of the Milk Crate Bandits) gratified.
May your happiness increase!