By John Ephland | Published May 2017
The Jazz Passengers, 30 years strong this year, are at it again with Still Life With Trouble. This band continues to be almost like a theater group, expanding the role of what it means to play jazz and improvised music—with more than a dash of flair.
Every tune is different, starting with the walking, stalking blues of “Paris,” which nicely features Roy Nathanson’s boppish sax, Curtis Fowlkes’ ironclad trombone and Sam Bardfeld’s sweet violin. Following a surprising cover of “Everybody Plays The Fool,” the deep, funky jazz of “Trouble” is full of episodic twists and turns. Fowlkes gets another turn, Nathanson plays a full-throated bari and vibraphonist Bill Ware sizzles with uptempo swing fueled, by E.J. Rodriguez and newcomer Ben Perowsky on drums/percussion. Bassist Brad Jones is equally spot-on.
The Passengers’ theatrical bent has led to high-profile artists like Debbie Harry and Elvis Costello joining their ranks, so it’s no surprise to find that the soulful, lanky, odd-metered lament “Wake Up, Again” features a guest appearance by Marc Ribot, who dishes up some funky guitar. His cameo on “Spring Flowers” combines a flair for the debonair with singing, storytelling and an infectious swing.
Still Life With Trouble: Paris; Everybody Plays The Fool; Trouble; Gleis, Spoor, Binario; Wake Up, Again!; Where’s Lonely Junior?; Friends; We’re All Jews; Spring Flowers. (42:22)
Personnel: Roy Nathanson, clarinet, saxophones, vocals; Curtis Fowlkes, trombone, vocals; Bill Ware, vibraphone; Brad Jones, bass; Sam Bardfeld, violin; E.J. Rodriguez, Ben Perowsky, drums; Marc Ribot, guitar (5).