Don’t let the odd album title or offbeat colored dogs and native mask artwork filled packaging keep you from experiencing Alain Mallet’s multi-cultural, polyrhythmic jazz meets global fusion masterwork Mutt Slang. His 25 years as a first call pianist composer included sideman stints for Paul Simon, Phil Woods and Madeleine Peyroux and penning song for Gary Burton, Dave Samuels and Paquito D’Rivera. It’s exciting to see him step out as a solo artist and bandleader with such an ambitious, genre-transcendent musical palette which doubles as a reminder that all music emanates from the same human and spiritual source.
This is one of those albums that truly fits the description, “joyful schizophrenia” – it’s deliberately all over the map (and planet), to stirring, unpredictable effect. The pieces range from the minute plus effects laden percussion solo (by Jamey Haddad) “Batukada” to the epic, multi-movement, tango-based ten and a half minute opener “Till I Dance (In Your Arms Again,” which features all means of intertwining exotic instrumentation and Mallet himself showcasing his most beautiful and jazzy piano chops.
The cool randomness of the stops by the musical tour bus includes the recorder and heavy piano chord driven “Road Signs,” an Israeli pop hit from the 70s sung charmingly in Hebrew by Tali Rubenstein and a rock/jazz fusion jam honoring Malian afro-pop singer/songwriter “Salif” Keita. Mallet’s current work as a professor in the ensemble and piano departments at his alma mater Berklee School of Music allows him to interact with some of jazz’s top rising stars, and the bandleader offers them many opportunities to show us that the genre will be in good hands for many years.
As if Mutt Slang needed a bonus to draw in discerning jazz and world music listeners, Mallat has released it as two CDs – a standard high quality stereo recording and another disc engineered with additional audio channels for surround sound by 8-time Grammy winning engineer Elliot Scheiner. This is a deeply thoughtful and wildly infectious musical adventure you shouldn’t miss!