By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
To anyone who has witnessed trumpeter Dennis González and his sons Aaron (bass) and Stefan (drums) play in Dallas as new-jazz trio Yells at Eels, the name of this album will come off as a bit audacious—and yet completely appropriate.
Scant crowds at local house or club performances generally fall short of "concert" size. "Great," though? If anything, that's underselling it.
This album, recorded live last year in Poland, showcases how naturally the outfit improvises even with a guest, in this case Portuguese tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado (who plays with the brothers in Humanization 4tet). The band will wander from the theme of a tune on a playful tangent, then snap back precisely on track as if the delightful distraction never happened. Dennis lets his sons shine here as both composers and instrumentalists, with Stefan's hypnotic, tom-heavy "Crow Soul" opening the set followed (after a respectful yet fun take on Ornette Coleman's "Happy House") by Aaron's alternately meditative and frantic "Joining Pleasure With Useful." The act later pays homage to its host country with Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda's mournful "Litania," and then gets in a goofy dig at the city's name (pronounced something like "bid-gosh") with the title of their final improv: "Oszkosz Bydgoszcz." Osh Kosh Bydgoszcz. Get it?
The jokes may be no better than when they named the band hoke-speak for "yes it is" 10 years ago. But you can't say the same for the musicianship.