Theirs is a music of tonalities, power, and communication.
Simon Paterson (upright and electric bass); Paul Deats (piano, Rhodes, and synthesizer) and Andrew Wood (drums); Tony Kofi (tenor saxophone)
On their debut album, Volumes I & II, by Sharp Little Bones is a collection of original songs that showcase why the band is the house band at Peggy’s Skylight and the energy and synergy that flows between these musicians. Their mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation blends seamlessly and organically together.
Theirs is a music of tonalities, power, and communication. The band covers many territories, from Trailblazing’s spaciness to the bounce and bubble of Blue Finger and every point in between.
Even during solos, the band has an emphasis on ensemble playing. That ensemble energy allows them to flow fluidly through complex rhythms matched with subtle dynamics while sounding fun at the same time.
Bassist and composer Simon Paterson explains,” We hunkered down and hit the ground, recording a double album in just nine hours. We were having such a blast, really listening to, reacting to, inspiring each other, and having meaningful musical conversations. Everything sounded so great in the studio, we just let it rip, track after track, so what you’re hearing is all live and mostly single takes.”
Ury Bop has an infectious melody, and keyboardist Paul Deats’s Rhodes gives the song a lovely texture, particularly in its chordal harmonies. Pairing the piano solo with synthesizer undercurrents gives the keyboard a strident and subtle sound. Paterson’s bass becomes prominent at the end and carries the song home.
Stranger Danger has a lovely opening hook that sounds like it could be the start of a Frank Sinatra song and moves swiftly into a riffing melody and then a post-bop exploration that keeps your attention riveted.
The rhythm section crackles and rumbles on this number, propelling the saxophone solo, and I love the stop-gap change from riff and back to solo. The song is infectious and effervescent. Bassist Simon Paterson says, “It’s a contrafact of a pop song I wrote, so ‘Stranger Danger ’is based on the chords of a pop tune that has become a bop tune!”
Hiddenness sounds like a King Crimson song to start. It swiftly evolves into an atmospheric percussion piece and a full-on jazz exploration, with the sophisticated, grooving walking bass leading the way. The song’s main theme morphs and slinks across tempos and tonalities without ever losing its way.
Downfall offers a prog-sounding synthesizer opening that abruptly drops into a ballad, with keyboards and bass driving the song beneath Kofi’s questioning saxophone.
Roo’s Blues – Sounds as soulful as the name, with the keyboards giving it an organ combo feeling without the organ. The song struts across the floor, keeping the bass ahead of the electric piano.
When Tony Kofi’s saxophone takes its solo, and the piano carries the rhythmic harmony, it doesn’t lose any of its lovely texture. This song goes everywhere.
Sorceress is a lovely song where Paterson plays an ostinato bass part to hold the rhythm of the music and overdubs another electric bass to play the melody as the other instruments weave around him.
Kofi’s lilting tenor saxophone lifts the song from there until the song ends as gracefully as it started with Paul Deats’s piano and synthesizer getting the last word,
Each song on this double album showcases a different aspect of the band. Still, it speaks to the band’s musicianship and respect for music that they don’t parlay any specific song as “the experimental song” or the “traditional song.”
All their elements are there and receive a different emphasis, and the band can shift instantly and effortlessly across the landscapes of their songs.
Despite being a “new” band, Sharp Little Bones’s music is mature. The songs on Vols 1 and 2 bristle with energy and a certain amount of daring; it’s a daring born of surety and delight in their music.
Despite their considerable talents, they aren’t trying to show off, and the non-traditional jazz elements they marshal into their songs sound organic and polished. This is a band to watch to see what happens next.