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Mumbo Jumbo

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Album Review

Jim Staley is one of the best trombonists you've never heard. His playing combines the technique of George Lewis with the playfulness of Jack Teagarden to produce wonders on his instrument. This recording is a series of four trio groupings with elite members of New York's downtown crowd in the mid-'80s, and fairly represents some of the state-of-the-art performances at the time. Among Staley's partners are John Zorn (alto saxophone), Bill Frisell (guitar), Shelley Hirsch (vocals), and Elliott Sharp (double-neck guitar/bass and soprano saxophone). While the novelty of these unions has paled somewhat over time, the playing is first-rate, and the self-effacing, under-recorded Staley is featured throughout. Most of the pieces sound like snippets, without melody or linear development. Still, they are fascinating structures, both for the quality of improvisation and for capturing a slice of an important freestyle genre.


Born: 1950

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Jim Staley occupies a unique position among trombonists, crossing genres freely between post-modern classical music and avant-garde jazz. He boasts spectacular technique, including the ability to spit forth clusters of notes at rapid speed. Usually concentrating in the mid-to-lower registers of the trombone, his big, gruff tone hearkens to an earlier era, though his wondrous abilities and style plant him firmly in the free music world. Raised in Illinois, Staley served in the armed forces as a member...
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Mumbo Jumbo, Jim Staley
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