Iron Kim Style
MoonJune Records, 2010
REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/30/2010
Jazz for me was once upon a time, a disconcerting thing where rhythm was subjective, verses and choruses were superfluous and nothing made sense. In time, I learned the beauty of the genre is that sort of diversity. Possibly more so than any other style of music, there really are no rules or limits, and the Seattle based improv jazz-rock quintet Iron Kim Style works in and around boundaries of style and technique to craft a wonderful soundscape that runs, flies, ambles, shambles, and lurches its way through myriad sonic vistas. Call it free jazz, improvisational, whatever – their raw, unrehearsed compositions gracefully mesh and flow.
Without the structure afforded more traditional compositions, the danger of drifting off into parts unknown is always there, but IKS does their thing right off the cuff, while managing to keep it accessible and tight. Sometimes, it doesn't sound improvised at all. I guess that says something. To me, it says structure and form germinating out of free association and random inspiration is an awesome thing. True, there are meandering moments, a little noise and a few chaotic moments where the floor drops out, but hey, that's jazz, dude. When those moments do arrive, it serves to add more flavor to an already satisfying stew.
The IKS lineup consists of Dennis Rea (six string guitar), Bill Jones (trumpet), Jay Jaskot (drums), Thaddaeus Brophy (12-string guitar), and Ryan Berg (bass). From the bottom up, every member brings something great to the mix. Jaskot's drumming is solid but laidback, providing a firm foundation and just the right accents in the right places. He's got that great consistent quality of the best jazz drummers, knowing how to temper his playing to a particular moment that many rock drummers never “get.” On the other end of the spectrum, bassist Berg is rumbling, thumping funk-fueled machine. He has a great sense for when to stick his neck out and when to chill, playing ball hog with the melody at times (in a good way) and always keeping the groove tight. Duel guitarists Rea and Brophy provide an amazing array of voices and the synergism between them is spot-on. I have no idea where one of them starts and the other stops, and that makes it so much the better.
For me, these guys are all superbly talented, but the lynchpin if this album is the fantastic trumpet work by Jones. Maybe some of it has to do with my own preconceptions about jazz, but that trumpet really pulls it all together. Jones’ sound is so timeless and rises up from a place in my past, whether it's the Al Hirt style bleats of “Jack Out The Kims” or the lonely siren song of “Don Quixotic.” His modern approach to a classic style conjures up images of ‘50s noir films or an Edward Hopper painting. His work on “Adrift” channeled me back to a place where Steve McQueen is still the coolest guy ever and film score genius Lalo Schifrin still ruled Hollywood.
For me, a casual jazz enthusiast, this particular album stripped away some of my preconceptions about improvisational music. Pigeonholing Iron Kim Style in the “jazz” category is unfair. They encompass prog-rock, funk, a bit of metal and much more that the word jazz alone conjures up. Colorful, fluid guitar solos, Berg's happily insistent bass and that oh-so evocative trumpet make for a fresh and invigorating sonic stew that demands you go back for seconds and thirds.