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Jazz album review: Endangered Blood's 'Endangered Blood'

March 15, 2011 |  4:51 pm


An acoustic jazz supergroup of sorts featuring Claudia Quintet saxophonist Chris Speed, multi-reedist Oscar Noriega and a rhythm section of drummer Jim Black and bassist Trevor Dunn, Endangered Blood has the sort of violent-sounding name that could have mainstream-minded jazz listeners thinking they’re in for another ceiling-shaking free-jazz hybrid.

And though its members are well-versed in such noble pursuits with wildly expressive players such as Tim Berne, Mike Patton and John Zorn, this project deserves attention from jazz fans of every stripe. Although the band can certainly mash the pedal to the floor such as on the searing climax of “Tacos at Oscar’s,” Endangered Blood is as enamored with tradition as it is with moving it forward. “Iris” dips into a New Orleans-styled groove led by Speed’s woozy saxophone, and a cover of Monk’s “Epistrophy” enjoys a renewed drive over Black’s clattering rhythm and Noriega’s rumbling bass clarinet, yet the tune’s melody remains sacred. Speed and Noriega’s tangled horns in “Uri Bird” and “Elvin Lisbon” are also highlights, with the latter featuring an insistent, motorik-like drive from Black and Dunn, the latter a Bay Area favorite who recently took over for Devin Hoff in the Nels Cline Singers.

Playing in a trio with Berne and Cline, Black helped steal the show at last year’s Angel City Jazz Festival, and his manic bag of tricks anchors Endangered Blood’s inventive yet approachable core. But with all four players locked in around him as if this were the band’s 12th album instead of its debut, let’s hope this ensemble’s recording future is better-fated than its name.

Endangered Blood
“Endangered Blood”
Three and a half stars
Skirl Records

— Chris Barton