Because of its dizzying mix of free-jazz sounds and grooving beats, there are people who dismiss That's Gonna Leave a Mark as a "gimmick." Mostly Other People Do the Killing's alt-jazz bombshell This is Our Moosic got the same treatment from everyone who missed the point. It was crap then, and it's crap now.
MOPTDK was inspired by free-jazz revolutionary Ornette Coleman, while Wilson learned the art of anarchy from the late Dewey Redman -- another destroyer of paradigms. But while MOPTDK seem hell-bent on nuking every musical bridge they cross, Wilson happily settles for seeing how far over the edge he and his incendiary quartet can lean before they tumble into the abyss.
"Shooshabuster" spews cascading chaos in the first five seconds as Jeff Lederer and composer Andrew D'Angelo surf on a wave of dissonant harmonic unison. The front line blows like mad, painfully stretching the outside of their respective instrumental envelopes. Wilson yells approval from across the studio as he furiously counters behind the two reeds; meanwhile, Chris Lightcap's throbbing bass line blasts right up the middle. The groove on "Shooshabuster" tastes like gourmet ice cream, even as the piece itself bellows, "HULK SMASH!"
Lederer and D'Angelo's unorthodox harmonic sense keeps every track interesting, be it fast or slow. The sinister "Area Man" screams like a monster-movie heroine as Wilson stomps Tokyo flat, while the warmth the reeds bring to "Getting Friendly" belies the piece's martial beat. They exchange saxophones for clarinets on the schizophrenic "Rear Control" and the pensive "Lucky," with devastating results: Lederer darts and dances on the high end, while D'Angelo's bass clarinet brings unbounded depth and brilliant contrast. Lightcap's primary job is to give Wilson room to stick & move, but Lightcap also contributes graceful solos to Wilson's "Arts and Crafts" and the hushed traditional "Come and Find the Quiet Center."
While traditionalists will run from this music like frightened dogs, That's Gonna Leave a Mark may also piss off free-jazz hard-liners who think Wilson didn't go far enough. To both sides, I say this: LIGHTEN UP! This is brilliant, inspired music that just happens to be slightly unhinged. It doesn't change the world, but it does make it a little more fun.