UA-35670761-1 Matt Mayhall- Fanatics |
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... Mayhall sets up a dancing, strutting beat somewhere between Ed Blackwell and Zigaboo Modeliste, as Parker grinds out distorted blues riffs that periodically resolve into a lilting melody, and Speed goes wandering into a thicket of barbed lines.
Matt Mayhall went for an instinctual approach with Fanatics, took a few chances and with the right guys to assist him, emerges triumphal.
Something Else!

Produced by Paul Bryan
Recorded and Mixed by Paul Bryan

L.A.-based drummer and composer Matt Mayhall is a jazz guy who has glided across idioms to touch on alt-rock, pop, folk and country styles through his associations with the likes of Aimee Mann, Dar Williams and Josh Haden’s Spain. Meanwhile, his considerable work with Daniel Rosenboom is an example of his deep ties to L.A.’s improvisational music scene.

Mayhall has a lot to be proud of with Tropes, that debut release from 2016, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s gotta go make another Tropes. For his second album Fanatics his personnel lineup is virtually the same: Jeff Parker on electric guitar, Chris Speed on the reeds, and produced once again by bassist Paul Bryan.

Bryan doesn’t play bass this time. Hell, nobody is playing bass, and that in itself forces some adjustments. There’s also the immediacy that comes from making a record ‘live’ with little rehearsal or editing, and what is heard on the record are the players performing Mayhall’s songs as they really learning them. Mayhall knows he’s got world-class improvisers at his disposal and on Fanatics and this time he mines those abilities to the hilt.

That makes Fanatics, quite frankly, a blowing session. The short intro “Speed” is the song’s namesake making a solemn statement on clarinet, presaging the trio diving feet first into a bop reverie on “Longview, TX.” Right away the positioning of the bass player behind the boards instead of alongside the other musicians is making an impact: as Parker and Speed trade licks, Mayhall’s rhythm work is easily discernible; he makes great use of the sound of the drums and keeps the pulse loose. “The Fanatics” is even more liberated; when it’s Parker alone squaring off against Mayhall, he is able to step further out without the bottom end reeling him in, and Speed’s clarinet finds a cyclical figure that takes the whole trio into a while other direction.

The pitter-patter of Mayhall’s toms establish the open, airy tint of “Polly And Elton” behind the dual freewheeling playing of Parker and Speed. Even when melody becomes more prominent as for “Heliotrope,” the wide spacing between Parker, Speed and Mayhall becomes an important part of the song, too. “Yr” is a departure from the rest of the album because of its atmospheric aura, starting with Parker’s guitar drone but unfolding attractively at the end. Mayhall creates chaos underneath on “Doom Loop” as Parker and Speed stay committed to his circular figure.

Charlie Parker’s “Dewey Square” was tossed in at the end of the recording sessions almost as an afterthought, but it’s revealing for the band’s interpretative handling of an old bebop tune. What’s remarkable is how closely the arrangement follows Parker’s seventy-year-old recording but the lack of bass nevertheless results in a distinctively airier feeling.
Matt Mayhall went for an instinctual approach with Fanatics, took a few chances and with the right guys to assist him, emerges triumphal.

-Something Else!