Lance Hammond
The Monktail Creative Music Concern
Thurs July 18 at Coffee Messiah.

The Seattle-based Monktail Creative Music Concern is a collective of jazz composers and individual musicians dedicated to pushing the boundaries of experimental music, or, as they put it on www.monktail.com, "real weirdo stuff." For the past 12 years, the members (whose residences span from the Northwest to New York and London) have been playing together in various incarnations, continually reinventing their lineups to keep the improvisations fresh.

The night I caught a Monktail performance, founders John Seman (upright bassist) and Mark Ostrowski (percussion) were on hand, as were guitarist Stephen Parris, trumpeter Ahamefule J. Oluo, and saxophonists Ryan Murtfeldt, Billy Monto, Izaak Mills, and Adam Weiss. I'm not gonna pretend to know the first thing about jazz, so I'll just describe what came across that night: flurries of trumpet and sax, and intense buildups that conjured up images of city-living.

There were crazed intersections of car horns and train whistles, yells from the sidewalk, and the beat of scuttling quickly through crowds of people. The instruments would come together in a dizzying clamor, only to scatter into their individual parts--the woozy tones of a saxophone, precise drumbeats, the lone notes of a flute. The music was vibrant and the energy was high, especially as the performers broke serious moods with sound effects from a toy gun, or by bursting into mock arguments.

I really liked the creative interplay. This is probably to the chagrin of one of the saxophonists, who loudly whined about not wanting his name in print. Despite his asinine attitude, he was a talented musician, and the rest of Monktail is also talented, professional, and very entertaining. If you're into improv/ experimental jazz (even if, like me, you don't know much about it), the collective has a residency at Coffee Messiah on Thursdays, and a bunch of shows listed on its website. And you can tell that grumpy sax man The Stranger sends our love.