AMN Reviews: Shatner’s Bassoon – Disco Erosion (2018; Wasp Millionaire Records)

In pop culture, Shatner’s Bassoon refers to a fictional part of the brain that influences one’s perception of time. Alternatively, and perhaps more interestingly, Shatner’s Basson is also a five-piece art rock / creative jazz / Zappaesque group from the U.K. consisting of Oliver Dover on sax and clarinet, Craig Scott on guitar, Johnny Richards on keyboards, Michael Bardon on bass, and Joost Hendrickx on drums. This outfit romps through four idiosyncratic and playful tracks on Disco Erosion, an album scheduled for release on April 27.

The first piece, Derpa Days, begins with a bang. It features fractured rhythms from funky keyboards and bass overlaid with angular guitar and sax leads. The latter two instruments form roughly interlocking melodic structures, as well as split off for short solos. Darts begins slowly with quiet, atmospheric improv, but evolves into a sax-driven stop-start melody. On the other hand, Zuppa focuses on a deranged main rhythm that lends itself to frenetic sax soloing. The finale, You’ve Got to Play the Game, alternates between complex uptempo themes that approach free jazz, with an emphasis on keyboards. But the preceding descriptions just begin to scratch the surface – there are so many ideas in each track that it can be challenging to follow all of them.

Disco Erosion is a singular release that would have fit in with the avant-jazz that has been put out on the Cuneiform Records label. Perhaps lines can be drawn to other adventurous U.K. groups, such as Guapo and Led Bib, but Shatner’s Bassoon forges their own path and genre. Highly recommended.