Brian Krock is back with a follow-up to his Big Heart Machine release of just a few months ago. Unlike the former, a big-band outside-jazz recording with 19 musicians, on Liddle Krock strips it down on this new effort. Aside from Krock himself on sax and clarinets, the group consists of Olli Hirvonen on guitar, Matt Mitchell (who seems to be everywhere) on piano and Fender Rhodes, Marty Kenney on bass, and Nathan Ellman-Bell on drums, with Simon Jermyn contributing bass and guitar to a pair of tracks.
Similar to last year’s release, Krock’s compositions exhibit knotty complexity combined with a jazz groove. Just when you think the group has gone down the rabbit hole of intricacy, they lift their heads up with a brief refrain that is catchy and almost familiar. But then it is back to the grindstone.
One of the more immediately gratifying tracks is Knuckle Hair, with disjointed rhythms in which the musicians come together and move apart in twos and threes. The climax has Hirvonen playing an awkward riffing pattern over which Krock solos and Mitchell alternates between percussive plunking and sweeping flourishes. Saturnine is more slowly paced with Mitchell leading the group through a set of inside-out melodies. Eventually, this morphs into a more conventional piano solo over an unconventional rhythmic pattern from Hirvonen, Kenney, and Ellman-Bell. Once Krock joins in, the group goes toward the outside in a roughly-structured improvisation. On top of all that is a cover of Anthony Braxton’s Composition 23b, complete with twisted bebop stylings and a strong lead from Mitchell with note-warping from Krock.
We said in September, Krock’s Big Heart Machine was a candidate for album of the year. Similar accolades are due for Liddle.