Jon Irabagon, the sax player for Mostly Other People Do the Killing, signed with Concord Music Group last year, resulting in the release of Irabagon's solo disc The Observer. Forty Fort -- MOPDTK's follow-up to 2008's This is Our Moosic -- shows why Observer crashed & burned so spectacularly.
Apparently, the geniuses at Concord thought that if Irabagon played "outside" while his backing group kept it straight ahead, they could duplicate the surreal atmosphere of Moosic. Here's the problem: Irabegon wasn't the only one on Moosic who was dancing on the ragged edge. What's more, the eye-crossing chemistry Irabagon and his partners displayed on Moosic was nowhere in sight on Observer; where Observer was just another gig, Forty is four like minds coming together again to chew bubble gum and kick ass -- and they're still out of bubble gum!
While Moppa Elliott's bass line heads right down the middle on the boisterous opener "Pen Argyl," Kevin Shea's histrionic drum solo is nowhere near where it should be in the standard jazz matrix -- but in the Bizarro world of MOPDTK, it works perfectly. Irabagon and trumpeter Peter Evans may sound like they're tossing out random notes in the first section, but the result is the same as "normal" musicians playing standard fills. The time signature goes up and down gradually, as if Elliott's working a rheostat, but the overall madness never wanes.
MOPDTK's patron saint Ornette Coleman is in the house during the mid-section riot on "Blue Ball": Irabagon works one figure to death, Evans screams unintelligibly at the ceiling, and Elliott nearly saws his bass in half with his bow. "Rough & Ready" is a brilliant pastiche on Weather Report that has Irabagon out-weirding Wayne Shorter; "Nanticoke Coke" is a waltz by a drunken wedding band that can't agree on a direction; and "St Mary's Proctor" has zombie clowns piling out of teensy cars. If things weren't bizarre enough, Shea punctuates the date with an array of electronic sound effects reminiscent of the mad props used by Bad Plus basher Dave King.

Forty Fort resoundingly succeeds where The Observer merely achieved White Hot Fail. Can MOPDTK keep this madness up the same way The Bad Plus has all these years? I hope so, because watching indie-jazzers showing corporations how to do it is too damn much fun.