Joe Baiza's Congress Of...
Live at Taix, Los Angeles
If you're a fan, or otherwise, of Joe Baiza's music, with Saccharine Trust, Universal Congress Of... Mecolodiacs, Men of Valor (is that right?) (with Al on vocals), et al, you're in for a treat if you get a chance to check out his recently realigned combo, Congress Of... named, I suppose as the resilient, stepchild of erstwhile UCO.
This Congress Of... Compacts jazz. That's what they do. They compress it, stretch it, crush it, and buff it, stomp all over it, pay some respect to the much codified rules and then rip them up and start again. They're fired with a very punk ethos, condensing some of the greatest jazz tunes ever recorded into two dynamic minutes of melody and excitement. I'll tell you, in Taix's comfy confines on Saturday, with their immediacy, with their instant impact - from virtually the first note, they got me thinking, that this was maybe the best band I've ever heard, and not just from Joe Baiza. This Congress Of, is truly Universal in appeal.
When he says "I'm attempting to condense all the things I like about jazz music into short bite size pieces." It is what he says it is. Joe Baiza is creating a sound so accessible it is almost purely experimental. It hasn't been done like this and some will say it shouldn't be done. Others, it couldn't be done. "Punk jazz. Jazz music for the uninitiated but at the same time jazz music for the experimental." He says.
It often sounded to me like the greatest soundtrack to a movie we'll never see.
Congress Of... feature Wayne Griffin on drums, Pat Hoed on bass, Richie Hass on vibraphone, Dan Clucas on trumpet and Tracy Wannomae on alto sax, flute and clarinet, and of course Joe Baiza on guitar. Their short, sharp set included a number of new Baiza compositions and of course material from the likes of Ornette Coleman. There was an especially delicious take on the modernistic and mysterious 'Our Man Higgins', from hard bop trumpeter Lee Morgan... (eventually shot by his own gun... wikipedia) - on the night featuring an exciting drum break from Wayne... And can I say, what's not to love about Richie Hass' vibraphone...
The night, the band, the room, the crowd. Would've made for a perfect rough and ready live album. There, i'll sell you the title.
Later of course and it can't go without comment, I was sitting at the top table with Joe, gathering some thoughts and a few Jamesons too. It was pretty funny, like the wedding scene from the Godfather, a constant string of people approaching, paying Baiza their respects... Waiting for a few words from one of the few LA musicians whose music always has something viable to say, whether you like it or not.
Go ahead and listen.