Culture Watch: The Dead Kenny Gs' 'Operation Long Leash' CD
(The Royal Potato Family)
Composed of three of the members of Seattle's jazz pranksters Critters Buggin, this group's choice of a name that fires a shot across the bow of smooth jazz while evoking Jello Biafra's hardcore band is par for the course. But underneath its smirking first impression (and, in a liner-notes photograph, curly dark wigs), the trio of bassist Brad Houser, percussionist Mike Dillon and the saxophonist called Skerik are having a seriously good time mashing together whatever genres cross their path.
Describing themselves as "punk jazz," the group embraces elements of jazz, metal and Afro-beat with a giddy abandon. Frequent collaborator Charlie Hunter lends echoing guitar to the head-bobbing funk of "Black Truman (Harry the Hottentot)," and Skerik's shape-shifting saxophone dabbles with knotty klezmer on the skittering "Luxury Problems" just as easily as it growls through the twisted metallic romps "Black Death" and "Sweatbox." The swinging sax and vibraphone closer "Jazz Millionaire" sounds so delicate by comparison that it's almost perverse, but the contrast underscores the madcap band's mission. They could easily play it straight, but there's too much fun to be had out on the edge.
-- Chris Barton