Hot Cup Records is proud to release Slippery Rock, the fifth studio album by the acclaimed quartet, Mostly
Other People Do the Killing (MOPDtK). This new group of compositions penned by bassist/composer/
bandleader Moppa Elliott, were inspired by a lengthy immersion in the smooth jazz recordings of the late
1970s and 1980s. While many purists, academics, fans, and the members of this ensemble dismiss much
of this music as superficial, commercial, and pandering, there are musical elements present that are unique
to the genre. In order to expand the range and repertoire of the ensemble, Elliott extracted certain idiomatic
phrases, harmonies and embellishments to incorporate into his own compositions.
Several consistent elements of Elliott's compositional style are conserved here, such as rhythmic
displacement and lyrical melodies, as well as the practice of naming the tunes after towns in his native
Pennsylvania. While the source material may derive from the most unlikely of places, the performances
are undoubtedly by MOPDtK. Rigid structural elements are broken down at will, anachronistic changes in
tempo, feel, and meter occur frequently, and the members of the ensemble capitalize on almost a decade
of collective performance as a quartet. This long ensemble history provides the members of the group with
a confidence and rapport rarely found in today's jazz ensembles. As always, references to a wide range
of styles, performers and composers are present in the music, ranging from Haydn to Kool and the Gang,
Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith to Philip Glass.
Slippery Rock, like the previous MOPDtK studio albums, opens with a drum solo over a vamp, leading
into the opening tune, "Hearts Content." After an initial melody deeply rooted in the blues, the ensemble
transitions to a bi-tonal bridge featuring call-and-response between the two horns. A driving coda leads back
to the opening section for solos, and recurs at the end of the piece.
"Can't Tell Shipp from Shohola" is a mellow tune in 9/8 showcasing the sensitive side of the ensemble. The
original AABA-Coda form is twisted and expanded by the ensemble's improvisation and a final A section ends
"Sayre" is based on the compositional clichés of 1980s smooth jazz. Sayre is the family name of composer
Elliott's mother's family, and the town of Sayre, PA was founded by distant relatives of the composer.
The slow-jam, "President Polk" draws inspiration from Prince, R. Kelly and other R&B artists of the latter 20th
century. The idiomatic use of extreme high registers to connote emotionality in this genre is taken to its logical
extreme by the inclusion of piccolo trumpet and sopranino saxophone.
"Jersey Shore" utilizes triadic harmony in non-functional sequences. Two melodic themes are sandwiched
between three triadic vamps which serve as the primary improvisational fodder.
"Yeo, Yough, Yo" is a Lenny Picket inspired free-for-all. This high-energy composition is relentless and
spirited throughout with each member of the ensemble aggressively jockeying for the spotlight.
"Dexter, Wayne and Mobley" is a nine-bar repeating form with several interlocking melodies woven into it.
The horn players shift fluidly between written material and improvised sections and the performance builds in
intensity, culminating when Shea abandons his drum machine-like groove for more open playing.
"Paul's Journey to Opp" was inspired by Elliott's friend and co-worker Paul Lindner's whimsical college journey
to the town of Opp with several friends in the 1970s. The composition has several disparate themes and two
open sections, the latter a four-bar vamp of sustained 4/4 swing, a sound rare on this particular album.
"Is Granny Spry?" begins and ends with a smooth jazz vamp interspersed with several different melodic and
harmonic sections. The final vamp and fade features elements that each horn player included throughout the
piece (saxophone squawks and the Haydn trumpet concerto).
Trumpeter Peter Evans continues to garner accolades for his virtuosic playing and seamless incorporation
of extended techniques into his playing. In 2010 Evans had compositions premiered at the Darmstadt and
Donaueschingen Musiktage Festivals, and was named as one of the top 5 "Musicians of the Year" for the
second year in a row by the New York City Jazz Record. Evans performs with two collaborative trios (Mary
Halvorson and Weasel Walter, and Tim Dahl and Mike Pride), his own quartet and quintet, and a variety of
other ensembles in addition to releasing music on his own label, More is More Records.
Saxophonist Jon Irabagon, winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, recently
launched Irabagast Records, his own label. The second album with drummer Mike Pride and guitarist Mick
Barr entitled Appalachian Haze as well as the second album by his quintet Outright! were both released in
2012. Irabagon continues to perform with legendary drummer Barry Altschul in duo and trio settings and
recently became part of trumpeter and composer Dave Douglass' new quintet.
Bandleader, bassist, and composer, Moppa Elliott spends most of his time inculcating musical knowledge
to his students at St. Mary's High School. In addition to his duties as a teacher and coach, Elliott produces
albums for his Hot Cup label, leads MOPDtK, and performs with many other NYC-based ensembles such as
Wildlife Control, Alice., and Jon Lundbom and Big V Chord. He has appeared in the DownBeat Critics' Poll
several times as a "Rising Star Composer".
Drummer Kevin Shea has been a mainstay on the experimental music scene since the mid 1990s. His
duo, "Talibam!" with Matt Mottel has released two recent albums, Atlantass, a theatrical piece featuring Sam
Kulik, and Puff Up the Volume, a foray into the world of rap and hip-hop. Shea was recently named "Best
Drummer" in the Village Voice’s Best of NYC issue for 2012, a title he has deserved for over a decade.
Album Liner Notes:
An artist must often move backward in order to look forward. Too often the demands of career and image impede the artistic development of our nation's brightest musical stars. The blinding lights of fame can obscure the artistic vision. By seeking to learn important lessons and profound truths from those who came before, it is possible for individuals to advance the cause of artistic greatness. Many talented young musicians have chosen to ignore the lessons of history, forsake the hard won knowledge of their forbears, and dismiss the work of the giants on whose shoulders they stand.
In the early days of Jazz--a music born as instrumentalists freed themselves from the restraints of rock and roll--commercial success and artistic integrity were not mutually exclusive terms. Classic early jazz albums such as "Breezin'" and "Mr. Magic" topped the charts in a variety of categories while boldly forging a new paradigm in American music: a combination of sonorous sensuality and infectious rhythms. An instrumental art form: Jazz
As this new "Jazz" music began to top the charts, younger musicians, versed in folk forms such as blues and swing, began to pull the hard-won fruits of this revolution out of the mainstream and into the concert hall. By the late 1990s Jazz had all but disappeared from the airwaves as hip-hop, a form of music lacking traditional instrumental technique, displaced true musicianship from one side, and the most talented players were drawn to the newly expanding genre of "straight jazz" on the other. Jazz's smoothness was lost to the seething intensity, unpolished technique, and primitive visceral histrionics of musicians who alienated the Jazz audience.
"Slippery Rock," the newest album by the collective of visionaries known as Mostly Other People Do the Killing (MOPDtK), harks back to an earlier time....the heyday of Jazz as popular music. By delving into the classic recordings of the 70's and 80's a new context for their virtuosic individuality has been discovered. Eschewing the trend-chasing tendencies of the majority of their peers, MOPDtK have nobly chosen to preserve this earlier style of Jazz to the benefit of audiences throughout the world.
Witness the raw clarion sound of Peter Evans as he floats majestically over a sterile groove. Listen with rapt attention to the heart-rending cries of Jon Irabagon as his saxophone seductively swirls around a mechanical hi-hat. Feel the relentless pulse and throb of Moppa Elliott's bass as he grinds out metrically perfect crotchets for minutes on end. Take heed of the crisp clean confabulation of rhythm unwaveringly cascading from Kevin Shea's drums. These are sounds not often heard in contemporary Jazz since its heyday in 1986!
A once pristine and enjoyable, not to mention lucrative, genre has fallen out of favor, only to be resuscitated by MOPDtK. This quartet has boldly responded to the overly-emotive and needlessly expressive Jazz of contemporary art house society by getting back to the roots: the singable melodies, the unwavering rhythm section, triadic harmonies, and smooth improvisations. "Slippery Rock" is the first brick in the slowly forming "Wall of Jazz," a structure that must be built by molding the clay of history into the stones of its own preservation. By fortifying traditional Jazz and steadfastly patrolling its ramparts, MOPDtK have stemmed the tide of contemporary apathy and reclaimed the lost land of true Jazz!
- Leonardo Featherweight, 2012