Oakland, California based Arts & Sciences is a quartet with two saxophonists, Jacob Zimmerman on alto and Matt Nelson on tenor, electric keyboardist and composer Michael Coleman, and drummer Jordan Glenn. Their CD New You, issued on Aram Shelton’s Singlespeed Music imprint, is a blast of freewheeling West Coast invention with an eclectic batch of tunes and plenty of electronic textures. People Really Like Me opens the proceedings with sludgy keyboards and slowly growling saxophones over a variety of clanks and cymbal splashes. When a beat asserts itself about two minutes in, the saxes take up a bluesy moaning theme in unison. The track rolls on until it fades in a six note circular theme. The band roars back with Poodle, a fast and hard riff, with pockets of improvisation that blows by in just over a minute. Baby Boner has a perky theme, but the section for improvising starts out slow and murky before exploding into full bore crashing funk with wailing saxes, pounding drums, and pummeled keyboards. Eventually it resolves into a repeated staccato lick that slowly fades out. The brief Step Child is a sweet melody with a few little hiccups, and it’s over before you know it. The boldly aggressive opening of Those Lepers is briefly supplanted by a spy movie soundtrack theme with moaning saxes before they play the opening riffs again to end the piece. An odd contrast, but played with a bravado combination of total conviction and tongue slightly in cheek. Seram and Shunting are two flavors of ferocious jazz rock, one swirling and intense, the other more atomized with invigorated saxophone dueling. The group expands to an octet on Scientology, with shimmering cymbals and electronic washes to start and a dramatic and stately them lovingly arranged for the horns that reminds me vaguely of the music of Abdullah Ibrahim. Jazz/Shadow concludes the disc with a good time vamp, tongues firmly in cheek this time as they roll on out. Arts & Sciences makes adventuresome music, characterized by Coleman’s gift for melodic invention and the group’s swampy sound. Well worth a listen.
By Stuart Kremsky. Originally published in the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors Journal. Vol. 46, NO. 2, June, 2013.