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Chicken or Beef?

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Album Review

It has been argued that music cannot be abstract and funky at the same time — that one automatically cancels out the other. But thankfully, there are some musicians who refuse to be governed by either/or thinking, and the Seattle-based Reptet has a lot of fun with avant-garde jazz on Chicken or Beef?. It is rare that one hears the words "fun" and "avant-garde" in the same sentence, but in fact, fun is an important part of the equation on this early 2008 recording — which is not to say that Reptet shies away from the cerebral or the abstract. There is plenty of quirky, left-of-center experimentation on Chicken or Beef?; this isn't exactly music that one is going to hear alongside Amy Winehouse or Kelly Clarkson on a Top 40 station. But at the same time, these inside/outside performances have more playfulness and funkiness — not to mention humor — than one typically expects from avant-garde jazz. It should be noted that Reptet experienced some personnel changes between Chicken or Beef? and their last studio album Do This!; on Chicken or Beef?, drummer John Ewing leads a sextet that also includes trumpeter/flugelhornist Samantha Boshnack, trombonist Nelson Bell, saxophonists Izaak Mills and Chris Credit, and acoustic/electric bassist Tim Carey. But Ewing is clearly the one in the driver's seat — that was true on Do This! and is equally true on Chicken or Beef? — and this album's healthy balance of abstraction and fun is very much a reflection of Ewing's creative vision. It's a vision that continues to serve Ewing's band well on this engaging CD.


Formed: Seattle, WA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s

The Seattle-based jazz ensemble Reptet formed in 1999 with a statement of purpose: "To compose, interpret and improvise music that inspires growth through freedom and discipline." Drummer John Ewing had been playing in different bands with varying styles before he started to look for musicians willing to play jazz and improvised music exclusively. Through open jam sessions he eventually found a stable group of performers with future Reptet pianist Stefan Nelson joining the group in late 1999. Audience...
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