NDIO, which stands for "never dance in orange", rose from the ashes of the Hugh Hopper Band. Hugh is no stranger to Canterbury, prog rock, and jazz fusion fans, as he is a former member of such seminal acts such as The Soft Machine, Wilde Flowers, Isotope, Gilgamesh, and Soft Heap, among others. Together with former Hugh Hopper Band sax/clarinet player Frank van der Kooij, Pieter Bast on drums, and trombonist Robert Jarvis, plus newcomers from the Dutch scene Niels Brouwer on guitars, Paul Maassen on piano and Hammond organ, and Michele Banabila on samples, NDIO was formed in 2002. Their first CD release Airback is an exciting amalgam of jazz rock styles that sound extremely fresh yet still reminds of the vintage days of the early 1970's.
While there are plenty of smoldering solos throughout Airback, this band acts as more of a tight ensemble rather than a blowing machine. In addition, there's a dark, haunting, almost ECM-like feel to many of the tracks here. Take the crawling, epic opener "Big Bombay" for example, with Hopper's pulsating bass line, Brouwer's Pat Metheny meets Bill Frisell guitar lines, and van der Kooij's snaking and melodic sax melodies. The drums of Bast weave plenty of intricate patterns while Maassen uses his Hammond to lay down crisp washes of chordal patterns. "Last Night of the Prawns" contains some pretty evil sounding sax work from van der Kooij along with fuss bass from Hopper (fans of The Muffins will like this piece) before the piece turns into a symphonic jazz number. Dark 60's jazz is all the rage on "Mr. Barn", featuring Jarvis and his yearning trombone and Brouwer's nylon acoustic, while "Soap" is an uptempo number that mixes jazz, funk, and rock, and a great vehicle for trombone, piano, and sax. The strongest piece though might be the closer "Wise Men", with its searing ensemble melodies, and the blistering guitar solo from Brouwer that hints at Frisell and Terje Rypdal.
Modern day jazz and fusion can sometimes sound fairly sterile, but NDIO have put together a delicious casserole here of intense sounds that are oozing wonderful aromas all around. Airback has got tight playing, laid back grooves, plenty of improvisations and solos, and melodies that stick in your head long after the CD is over. Once again, Cuneiform comes up with the goods!
1) Big Bombay (9:19)
2) Last Night of the Prawns (5:19)
3) Mr. Barn (5:26)
4) Landscapes (7:06)
5) Soap (5:22)
6) Mind Interception (5:23)
7) Stromboli (3:51)
8) Bone (5:35)
9) Wise Men (5:37)