Hot Cup Records is proud to present Paint, the first release by the piano trio configuration of Mostly Other People Do the Killing.
Paint features seven new compositions by bassist/composer Moppa Elliott written after pianist Ron Stabinsky joined the ensemble in 2014.
Also featured on the recording is drummer Kevin Shea. Each composition on the album is named after a small town in Pennsylvania that contains a color, and the town of “Paint, PA” lent its name to the title. All of the compositions are by Elliott, except “Blue Goose” which was written by Duke Ellington who apparently also had a fondness for strangely named places in the Keystone State.
Jazz listeners often remark that the piano trio format allows each of the members more space than other, larger ensembles, but in the case of MOPDtK, their unrestricted style is instantly recognizable in configurations ranging from trio to septet. The trio does afford each member more time in the spotlight, and none more than pianist Stabinsky who provides the lion’s share of lead and solo work here. Elliott continues to eschew bass and drum solos, utilizing them only in compositionally specific sections of music.
The album opens with the lilting “Yellow House,” a composition consisting of four distinct sections and a melody that recalls the hard bop era of the 1950s.
The solo form of the composition alternates between the initial melody and an Afro-Cuban feel in a minor key. Stabinsky’s solo builds to a climax and dissolves the form before bassist Elliott restates the opening theme. The interplay between the members of the trio is easy to hear as drummer Shea and Stabinsky exchange high-pitched interjections.
The slow blues “Orangeville,” written in 5/4 time, has undergone several revisions and represents the oldest composition on the recording. First composed for the original pianoless quartet configuration of the band, the tune was heavily rewritten for the band’s current incarnation. The two solo sections are over vamps and Stabinsky was instructed to “play as many notes as possible” at the beginning of his improvisation before cuing a modulation leading to the bass solo.
“Black Horse” is based on a rising chord progression that provides the framework for both the opening vamp and the first melodic statement.
The bridge of the tune is more blues-based and draws from the compositions of post-bop musicians of the 1960s. The ensemble maintains the up-tempo groove and moves through the different sections of the form before becoming stuck on a two-chord vamp which Elliott escapes by restating the melody.
The Duke Ellington composition “Blue Goose” may or may not be named after the eponymous location in Pennsylvania, but Moppa Elliott hopes so. Regardless, Elliott composed a piece with this title only to find out that America’s greatest composer already beat him to it. He changed the name of his composition to “Whitehall” (since the titles have nothing to do with the music, anyway) and decided to record a trio version of Ellington’s piece. The original recording was made by the “Blanton/Webster” version of the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1940 and adapted for trio by Elliott.
The slow, minor key waltz “Plum Run” begins the second half of Paint.
Elliott states the initial theme and takes the first solo over a form that alternates between a diminished chord section and the changes to the A section. Again, Stabinsky’s solo builds to a spectacular climax before returning to the mellow, bluesy theme.
“Green Briar” is an up-tempo tune based on several repeated note figures that are harmonized in a variety of ways. This performance serves as a vehicle for Stabinsky to improvise over a repeated form with relatively stable harmonic and rhythmic support.
The last composition written for this album was “Golden Hill,” a lyrical melody in triple meter. The melody is played first by the piano followed by the bass with extensive embellishments featuring tremolos and other flurries of notes. This may be the most lyrical playing ever heard on a MOPDtK record, but the ending interplay between Shea and Stabinsky eventually removes any trace of sentiment.
The album ends with the aforementioned “Whitehall” that began life as Elliott’s “Blue Goose.”
The piece consists of a single melody that is reharmonized and expanded each time it is stated with short interludes in the key of A. The solo form incorporates all of the harmonizations of the melody as well as an open section over the note “A” used as a pedal-point.
Over the past thirteen years, MOPDtK, led by bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, has earned a place at the forefront of jazz and improvised music, performing in a style that is at once rooted in the jazz tradition and highly improvised and unstructured. Billed as a “Bebop Terrorist Band,” their music melds history and tradition with cutting-edge vibrancy and the underlying imperative that jazz is alive and well, and most of all, fun. Their initial albums explored the intersection between common practice hard bop compositions and free improvisation, incorporating a kaleidoscopic wealth of other influences from pop music to the classical European repertoire. In 2010, Elliott expanded the group’s framework and began exploring specific eras of jazz, resulting in 2011’s Slippery Rock (an investigation of smooth jazz and fusion styles) and 2012’s Red Hot (featuring an expanded lineup recalling the jazz and blues recordings of the late 1920s and early 1930s).
2014 saw the release of Blue, a note-for-note recreation of Miles Davis’ classic album, Kind of Blue that evoked a wide range of strong responses from both the public and critics and will likely be a part of the discussion of the state of jazz in the 21st century for years to come. In 2015, the band returned to a quartet format for the album Mauch Chunk, which explored the hard bop styles common in the 1950s. Since the release of Mauch Chunk, all four members of the core quartet have released solo recordings including Moppa Elliott’s Still, Up In the Air, and pianist Ron Stabinsky’s Free For One, both on Hot Cup Records. In February 2017 MOPDtK the band released the septet album Loafer’s Hollow to wide critical acclaim.
Pianist Ron Stabinsky first joined MOPDtK in 2013 as part of a project at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam commemorating the anniversary of Eric Dolphy and Booker Little Live at the Five Spot.
In addition to his work with MOPDtK, Stabinsky is an accompanist in virtually every possible context from classical recitals, to community choirs, to improvised music, jazz, pop, and rock. Stabinsky lives in Plains, PA and is a member of the Peter Evans Quartet and Quintet, Charles Evans Quartet (no relation), and recently recorded his first solo album Free For One on Hot Cup Records.
Kevin Shea was named “Best Drummer in New York” by the Village Voice and regularly tours with the noise-rock-improv duo, Talibam! Shea recently released a third album with the band People featuring Mary Halvorson.
Bassist Moppa Elliott teaches music at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, NY and double bass and trombone at the Long Island Conservatory. He also produces and releases albums on Hot Cup Records including his solo bass recording Still, Up in the Air.