Dead Cat Bounce has been bopping into the Capital District for over a decade now. Longtime jazz fans will remember the ensemble at Union College’s first and only jazz festival in the early 2000s. Or perhaps from their numerous performances at the Upbeat on the Roof summer concert series at Skidmore’s Tang Museum.
The brainchild of Brooklyn reedman (and Schenectady native) Matt Steckler, Dead Cat Bounce was born while he was pursuing a graduate degree at the New England Conservatory in the late 1990s. The group features his originals as performed by a collective of like-minded individuals who all pursue jazz in an unorthodox manner by blending experimentation, improvisation and classical chamber-music influences.
The collective’s adventurous sound falls somewhere between the free-form experimentation of Coltrane and something Steve Reich might conjure up if he were in a world music mood while listening to Eric Dolphy and reading about Lennie Tristano.
In other words, the music really needed to be experienced first hand.
On Saturday night, a full house of friends, family and fans filled the GE Theatre at Proctors to hear the Bounce bop. Drummer Bill Carbone (of the Melvin Sparks Trio) joined forces with acoustic bassist Dave Ambrosio to propel the saxophone quartet of Jared Sims, Terry Goss, Charlie Kohlhase and leader Matt Steckler, who also played the flute, into uncharted territories of musical expression.
The band’s dynamic songbag was brimming over with everything from fiery sax solos to melodic flute interludes. Stomping beats gave way to gentle, abstract rhythms that flowed effortlessly in and out of the collective’s wide-ranging mix of influences. Even though there were six musicians onstage, there really was one voice – that of the composition at hand.
Touring in advance of their upcoming fourth full-length CD, “Chance Episodes,” Dead Cat Bounce had a lot to say that night…with plenty more to come in the future.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
See more of Andrzej Pilarczyk’s photographs at AlbanyJazz.com
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Steckler’s music has smarts, heart and humor: It’s change-y without feeling restless so that major moves of tempo and chords feel less like detours than like a logical fork in the road, even when you didn’t recognize that fork until embarked on a new riff. Some of it felt familiar: ‘Gone Awry,’ which Steckler admitted had done just that at one point, felt like a New Orleans funeral for Captain Beefheart. ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ had a very non-antique Mingus-y swing with the saxes fading and regrouping to generate tremendous centrifugal force. ‘Township Jive Revisited’ recycled the classic ‘Killer Joe’ riff behind Simms’ soprano sax solo, all tropical grace and sunshine.”