This recent album from the SS Puft Quartet (SS Puft stands for "Seems Sometimes People Undergo Full Transformation) is a 2 CD set recorded live at Earthshaking Music in Atlanta, GA. The band is a smoldering fusion of free-jazz and avant-garde prog rock, consisting of guitarist Colin Bragg, Jeff Crouch on trumpet, drummer Blake Helton, bassist/H'arpeggionist Erik Hinds, and guest sax player Dave Rempis. What you get on these two packed CD's are full band rave-ups, solo spots, and a few duets, all of which are highly enjoyable examples of underground avant-garde music at its best.
Tracks like "Sludge" bops like some of the best jazz bands around, with Rempis' sax screaming above the furious rhythm section of Helton and Hinds, while "Blues for Arnold" features the angular guitar lines of Bragg, whose style and tone shapes this piece into something that wouldn't sound out of place on the Cuneiform or ECM labels. At times he sounds like a cross between David Torn, Bill Frissell, Terje Rypdal, and Phil Miller. The band even crosses over into ominous King Crimson territory on the rampaging "Gestures", with its eerie guitar textures and dissonant trumpet blasts from Crouch. "Navajo" combines melodic jazz with furious progressive fusion, as the sax and trumpet take part in a manic battle before Bragg's dizzying guitar solo comes blasting into the mix.
This is a great example of how mixing written song and improvisation is supposed to work. Five musicians, all ready to take chances and create challenging yet harmonious music that knows no boundaries. The audiences in Atlanta sure are lucky to have this talented group around to perform for them. This CD was a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to hearing more from this ensemble in the future.