Crafty band name aside, there’s nothing too odd about these dogs, who are actually a quintet of top flight L.A. jazz cats – with mile-long all-star resumes behind them – pooling their collective talents to create some high intensity, often odd-metered prog rock/jazz fusion the wild-hearted way it was done in the genre’s 70’s heyday.
The project’s jazz superhero origin story begins with longtime friends Steve Billman (bass) and guitarist Jeff Miley (guitar) teaming up to pen tunes for the first time. To debut some of them live, they brought in drummer Ralph Humphrey – and later fleshed out the powerhouse lineup with versatile saxophonist/keyboardist Andy Suzuki (back in L.A. after five years in Germany) and percussionist and mallet master Billy Hulting.
Aside from the alternating vibes – from brisk, crisp, punchy and percussive to dreamy, languid and lyrical - the coolest part of this deeply immersive experience is the sudden twist of tempos, sometimes right in the middle of a tune. The title of one tune, “Hairpin,” perfectly reflects this slightly jarring but ultimately cool aesthetic.
Whether they’re rock and rolling or swinging in a trad jazz way, The Odd Dogs keep daring us to stay alert, pay attention and listen multiple times so that we feel the artistry that’s bubbling just beneath the surface.