St. John’s quintet Ouroboros dropped their second full-length album, Kitchuses this September, and not surprisingly, it’s no less easy to pin down than their first, self-titled full-length. Kitchuses saunters and swings, treating listeners to everything from funk, folk, jazz-fusion, bebop, Klezmer, Balkan, Dixieland, and then some.
It’s a whirlwind of styles, which can be chalked up, in part, to the band’s 4 distinct songwriters: Greg Bruce (alto sax, clarinet), Susan Evoy(alto sax), Chris Harnett (tenor sax), and Nicole Hand (baritone sax). There’s an urgency, for example, to Bruce’s Klezmer-themed compositions that contrasts Evoy’s heavier laidback grooves. Where Evoy brings the funk, Harnett brings something akin to amped up bebop.
Then there’s Hand, who starts the album off with the title track; an Eastern European sounding folk/jazz composition named after a tiny village southeast of Bay Roberts. As you would. With 11 tracks in total, Bruce’s 6 songs make up the bulk of the album. Track 3, Dada Sali is a traditional Macedonian folk song (featuring Pat Boyle on trumpet), and track 9, The Gypsy, a traditional fiddle tune written by Newfoundland’s Dave Panting (arranged by Bruce).
Cohesiveness could easily be a casualty on this album, and the band as a whole for that matter. Somehow Ouroboros manages to mash it all together, though, in a way that seems perfectly logical. Like any dialed-in jazz ensemble, it’s technical talent and discipline that affords the creative freedom to colour so frenetically inside the lines. Ouroboros are in obvious supply of both.
Though he’s since departed for Toronto, drummer and percussionist Andrew McCarthy has played a huge role in seamlessly threading all these styles and influences together. The reins have been handed over to Ash Chalmers, and it’ll definitely be fun to see what he brings to such a unique, tight band.
While Kitchuses isn’t a radical departure from their self-titled album, it does move Ouroboros a little more toward prevailing notions of jazz than their first release. It’s the weirder Herbie Hancock, Headhunters, or Don Cherry “world-jazz” variety, but still, more identifiable as jazz-fusion to me this time around.
Their ability to mix up a cerebral genre of music not necessarily known for accessibility, and turn it into one spicey, funky carnival is Ouroboros’ greatness in a nutshell. They’re one of the city’s preeminent party bands for a reason: they’ve always been about movement. You’d have to be tied to your chair to successfully resist dancing at one of their live shows.
Ouroboros are also one of the busiest outfits in the city. The band took their party on the road in the UK this summer, played the 2017 Canadian Arts Presenting Association Conference in Ottawa this November, and landed on the Borealis Longlist for Kitchuses, most recently.
If it’s a rollicking good time you’re after, grab yourself a copy of Ouroboros’ Kitchuses, and a new pair of dancing shoes!