New York based drummer Kate Gentile’s new release is what you’d get if Curlew took steroids and tried to sound like a hybrid of Univers Zero and Anthony Braxton. Gentile’s rhythmic approach focuses on complex, staggered lines – the kind that would likely result in you breaking your legs if you tried to dance to them.
Ok, hyperbole aside, Mannequins is another outstanding effort from a Big Apple composer who is fluent in multiple styles – jazz, classical, and avant-rock – and moves between them effortlessly. Joining her on the album are Jeremy Viner on sax and clarinet, Matt Mitchell on piano and electronics, and Adam Hopkins on bass. Spanning 70 minutes and 13 tracks, Gentile leads her compatriots through mind-bending harmonic progressions.
For instance, the first two tracks, Stars Covered in Clouds of Metal and Trapezoidal Nirvana exemplify her modus operandi. Along with Mitchell and Hopkins, Gentile provides angular, jagged lines, remarkable for their unpredictability and almost complete lack of repetition. Viner either joins in on rhythm or takes on the difficult task of playing a lead over these shifting soundscapes.
But this is not to say that there are no moments of jazz-inflected improv or tracks with a more linear and predictable approach. In contrast, some tracks contain less of a rhythmic structure, and lean toward free jazz. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the album is unconventional modern chamber jazz.
Is any of this diversity surprising? Not really. While I’m not familiar with Gentile’s previous work, she has performed or recorded with Braxton, Kris Davis, Marty Ehrlich, Michael Formanek, Chris Speed, Anna Webber, and John Zorn among others. In line with that pedigree, Mannequins is quintessential New York creative music, and thoroughly enjoyable.