Sexmob – Cultural Capital

REVIEW: Sexmob - Cultural Capital

Sexmob – Cultural Capital (Rex)

Here’s a dirty little secret about Sexmob: Even though the band is viewed as a quasi-novelty act in some quarters, thanks to a discography that includes cheeky covers of non-jazz tunes such as “Macarena” and a tribute to lounge-music cult figure Martin Denny (called, naturally, Sexotica), slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein’s brainchild has been a vital and adventurous combo for two decades now. And with the arrival of Cultural Capital, the outfit’s first recording of exclusively original material, that fact will be more difficult to overlook.

Bernstein and his compatriots — saxophonist Briggan Krauss, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen — are committed to an aesthetic that goes well beyond a willingness to embrace humor. For one thing, the group favors arrangements with plenty of space, thereby allowing each player to fully express his vibrant personality; even “Valentino,” featuring overdubbed guitars by Krauss and Scherr, feels downright roomy. For another, the four are able to draw from a wide range of musical traditions without losing their individuality thanks to a brash, what-the-hell attitude and an apparently endless supply of creative energy. Stodginess is off-limits, but that’s pretty much it.

The album kicks off with “Street,” whose syncopated beat and dubby bass line serve as the foundation for a Bernstein-Krauss duel heavy on atmospherics and drive. But rather than continuing to stick to this (or any other) theme, the quartet takes one tangent after another. The results are consistently smile-inducing, as evidenced by the modernist cha-cha of “Step Apache,” the tipsy meandering of “Bari Si,” the moody pointillism of the Scherr showcase “Helmland” and the glorious hamminess of “SF.”

At the midpoint of “Golden House,” a sometimes woozy, frequently exuberant New Orleans-style celebration, a disembodied voice asks, “Who’s at the door?” amid persistent knocking. The answer is Sexmob, and by all means, let them in.

Michael Roberts

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