Digital album available on Bandcamp, Apple Music, Spotfiy and Amazon Music
Jeff Cosgrove (drums); Jeff Lederer (saxophone, clarinet); Mark Lysher (bass)
Recorded Town Run Brewing Company, Shepherdstown, West Virginia (no date)
Jeff Cosgrove is a busy man; this is one of three live albums he’s released in 2023. This recording comes with a hilariously ambiguous album cover and plenty of good music. Cosgrove seems to thrive in a trio setting and this incarnation includes saxophonist Jeff Lederer, who appeared on Cosgrove’s well-received 2020 release History Gets Ahead of the Story, and bassist Mark Lysher, who has been associated with the drummer for more than a decade. In other words, this is a line-up that understands each other well and it shows in the playing.
The album’s title comes from the fact that Cosgrove lived in Shepherdstown, West Virginia (population around 1500) for many years, before leaving in 2014. This is his return, with a gig recorded at the Town Run Brewing Company community pub. Kudos to recording engineer Tony Gilchriest, who has captured both the band and the audience well – you can sense the atmosphere and feel the ambience of the venue.
Anyone taking a quiet snooze before the gig started would have soon been roused from their slumber, because the band comes out with all guns blazing and a frenetic free jazz number, ‘Stanley’s Package.’ Lederer plays a furious circular riff on tenor saxophone, interspersed with squeals, screams and bleats. Cosgrove’s drumming influences include Paul Motion, Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes, and the drummer’s playing here sounds supple and loose. This fast, energetic, edgy nine-minute opener clearly announces the band’s arrival.
By contrast, ‘No Booze Blues’ could be played at a New Orleans funeral march, with Lederer’s mournful lines leading the procession. During his long solo, the audience can be heard making approving noises in the background. Lysher plays a deft solo on double bass before Lederer returns with more explosive playing. The longest number is the near-twelve minute-plus ‘Dewey’s Tune,’ a swinging number with a playful theme. There’s a lovely moment – near the eight-minute mark – when the noise of a nearby train interrupts Lederer’s solo, who without missing a beat, starts harmonizing with the sound of the locomotive!
Perry Robinson’s midtempo ‘Farmer Alfalfa’ (which I thought was a person’s name, but turns out to be a type of legume) sees Lederer switching from sax to clarinet, giving the sound a Middle Eastern feel. Once again his playing is impressive, fast and fluent, with the dynamics ranging from a deep growl to a high-pitched squeak. This version has a more inventive rhythm arrangement than the original, with Cosgrove playing a spiralling array of fills and accents, as well delivering an extended solo at the coda.
The band plays a spirited cover of the jazz standard ‘Softly As In A Morning’s Sunrise’ which has been covered by many artists including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chet Baker and Sonny Rollins. ‘Krystal’s Cavern’ is a short (less than two minutes long) free-form jam, led by Lederer’s abrasive sax sound. ‘Going Home,’ has Lederer on clarinet again, and the soft, mournful sound reminds me of Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’ (the part used by the Hovis advertisement). It’s a long, tranquil piece (it’s almost eight minutes long) and requires the confidence that you can hold your audience. The band pulls it off, although a little background chatter can be discerned.
The set closer, ‘Pee Wee Blues,’ finds Lederer retaining his clarinet, and the band playing out with a slow blues. Tagged onto the end – when the band had finished playing – is an “interesting” exchange with an audience member, which should have been edited out. But that aside, the crowd clearly had a good time, and so did I, listening to this album.