Not to be confused with the club outfit of the same name or the early 70s Jazz band the Sunship Ensemble, this Sunship features jazz saxophonist Michael Monhart and guitarist Brian Heaney from the band Stinkhorn along with drummer David Revelli from the Grassy Knoll and Andrew Luthringer on bass. Trombonist Stuart Dempster from the world of classical and jazz music also contributes to this disk. The 6 tracks include both improvised and composed pieces and the album as a whole showcases a group of experienced and skilled musicians setting out to be fresh and innovative with their music. The opening 14 minute improvisation features a languorous sax, trombone and keyboard partnership with occasional interactions between a set of loose open guitar notes and a smattering of percussion. The overall effect is mysterious and eloquent with a fine sax solo raising the tempo near the close.
The band cite influences including Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane (from where, in his 1965 album, the band take their name) as well as James Blood Ulmer and Nels Cline. Some of Coleman's wilder elements are highlighted in "Psalm X" where the trombone and sax swap places in a percussion rich background creating a schizophrenic image of nervous energy. The lamenting "Moonlight" sees a return to the mood of the opening improvisation with a guitar, bass and sax arrangement to the fore and shimmering clouds of muted trombone shading the backdrop. Some of Miles' Bitches Brew influence may be seen in the chaotic instrumental fleapit which makes up the latter third of the work, while the whole piece concludes with a honking argument between sax and 'bone. "New Africa" is a dirge which drags its percussive feet like a New Orleans funeral with a mournful muted trombone the highlight of the song.
After such restrained works, "Ufology" hits you like a steamhammer. Trombone and Sax together blaze away on the same melody (I think for the first time – most of the time they are at counterpoint or exchange positions). They soon split up though to adopt their juxtaposed blasts over an intense drum and bass conflagration. A short but breathless 3 and a half minutes including a drum solo which leaves you, and maybe them, with mad staring eyes! The final improvised number returns to the melancholy introspective formula of the opener.
An impressive avant-garde jazz fusion offering from 5 highly respected and accomplished musicians.
1. Spotless pots
2. Psalm X
4. New Africa