By Jonathan Zwickel, The Stranger’s Music Blog Line Out, July 14, 2007
Holy shit — Paul Rucker. The multi-instrumentalist band leader extracted a phenomenal performance from a who’s who of Seattle jazz and avant luminaries on Saturday. Part of Monktail Creative Music Concern’s concert series in Cal Anderson park, Rucker’s ensemble was all over the map but never off-target, consistently escalating from the abstract (trance-like thumb piano patterns, violin-vs-cello scratching) to the concise (full-blown soul-jazz crescendos). Tempestuous horns, crackling breakbeats, rubbery upright bass—the band snapped tight as Rucker stood and conducted or played electric bass or cello, giving enough room for surprises to unfold while never for a moment allowing doubt that they might not. Even as a weirdly skronking, off-tempo horn battle launched one song, there was no doubt that the number would go somewhere, and eventually it erupted into a hard-swinging lockstep groove reminiscent of Black Saint-style Mingus and the best Impulse or CTI jazz of the mid-’70s.
Really—this guy’s a monster. Even his solo cello number was hypnotizing. I want more of Paul Rucker and I want it now.
Also terrific during Saturday’s jazz-in-the-park sesh: Orkestar Zirkonium. The Balkan brass band paraded in past the wading pool—tuba belching, horns tooting, bass drum booming—and later stepped off stage to play in the grass, among the crowd. It was impossible to not get swept up because they were so damn close, and so damn good. The horn player from OZ later sat in with Rucker’s ensemble, as did Aham from Seattle hard-jazzers Industrial Revelation. There are some motherfucking PLAYERS in this town, and not just in the rock scene.
Speaking of: Why wasn’t Cal Anderson packed to the gills on Saturday? It was a beautiful afternoon, there was free music in the middle of Capitol Hill, and there were maybe 150 people there, 200 max. This isn’t gooey background jazz, either, but weird and potent and extremely soulful stuff. Wassup people? FREE MUSIC. IN THE PARK. BEER DRINKING WITH YOUR FEET IN A FOUNTAIN. SUMMERTIME. It’s elementary.
Also: a naked parade. What’s not to like?
Monktail is the only free summer jazz series in the city, and the talent is ferocious. Next month, Saturday, August
11 4, features Skerik and Wayne Horvitz, among others. Seriously. Don’t miss it.