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Zappa would be proud

The Wrong Object - Stories From the Shed

3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 13, 2008
The Wrong Object

Review by Brad Walseth

Fans of avant garde jazz/rock fusion will love this Belgian group, who originally started out as a Frank Zappa cover band. It definitely sounds like these players spent a lot of time at the Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque growing up resulting in a heavy Zappa influence to the band, but they have taken the master's blueprint and gone off on their own, building compelling structures which blend electric guitars, synthesizers and electronics with tenor sax and trumpet/flugelhorn over a tight electric bass and drums rhythm section.

Not for jazz purists or Franocphobes (ok Belgiphobes), this group is living proof that not all European jazz floats off into the aether, recycles the standards or mimics the AACM. Zappa's love of odd time signatures and unusual modes, minus the scatological "humor" is always a welcome relief from the familiar. And all of the players here pack the punch to carry it off too. Led by guitarist Michel Delville, The Wrong Object builds upon the airtight work of bassist Damien Polard and powerhouse drummer Laurent Delchambre. A collective effort, but tenor saxophonist Fred Delplanco especially shines, as on the churning "15/05." The sheepishly titled "Sheepwrecked" opts for Jean-Paul Estievenart's horn to swirl around lovely Delville guitar passages. Hypnotic and quite rewarding and in a much more melodically-driven direction than their icon generally went. Delville, who favors supportive guitar work throughout and only displays his impressive lead guitar prowess on the Middle-Eastern-flavored ending track ("The Unbelievable Truth - Part II"), writes most of the group's compositions, but they also dabble at times in free form improv with all members involved in the creation.

Many of the compositions do not reach the level of complexity of Zappa's best work, but then only a few do, and they still are considerably more interesting than much of the current jazz field. "Saturn" starts out like '60s era Herbie Hancock or Wayne Shorter with a unison horn frontline but shatters into serrated pieces, with Delplanco evoking the ghost of Coltrane over jangly guitar. Songs like "Malign Siesta" and the waltzing "Strangler's Fig" morph seamlessly into so many different styles that it is difficult to describe, other than to say it is a wild ride and a quite joyous collage hinting at old New Orleans, free form art noise, cabaret swing and Jeff Beck among others. Meanwhile, Leonardo Pavkovic's New York-based Moonjune Records is becoming THE label to go to for interesting foreign jazz fusion, and they have struck gold again with this fascinating group, that deserves more attention here in the country that gave the world the late, great Frank Zappa.

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