Jones has stated that Big Gurl is about his intellectual quickening in college, just as his superb debut, Man’ish Boy interpreted his impressions of boyhood in Richmond, Virginia. The pair is clearly conjoined by his unique blend of tradition and ferment; with songs typically framed by melodic themes around more woolly and willful improvisations in the middle. Trio members Adam Lane (bass) and Jason Nazary (drums) are given more of the spotlight this time out, which Lane utilizes for frequent change-ups between pluck and bow. Added to Jones’s penchant to vary his textures from broad honks to extended squeals, and from acrid, pepper-sprayed notes to long, arching tones, Gurl is able to put forth an unusually multi-faceted attack without deviating from the trio’s group sensibility or core identity.
“E-Gaz” is an appropriate opener precisely because it covers much of this far-flung terrain in a single song. “Michele Heart Willie” features the most straightforward narrative of the disc, while “A Train” — only tenuously tied to the Strayhorn song of the same name — highlights Jones’s special penchant for sounding slithery and coarse at the same time (a la Albert Ayler and occasionally Coltrane) and Lane’s starkest contrast between arco and pizzicato passages. “I Wish I Had A Choice” is a beautiful, relatively free-floating ballad benefiting from the spaciousness of the trio format. “My Special D” begins in a like manner, set off by Lane’s sumptuous bass and Nazary’s feathery beats and greater use of cymbals, before heading into thornier thickets. That sets up the roll and thunder of the final two tracks. “Chasing the Ghost” goes from predatory to madcap back to torrid intensity while engaging in elements of rock, funk, and “outside” jazz. “Ol’ Metal-Faced Bastard” — an obvious nod to Wu-Tang’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and to Jones’s shout-out to P-Funk’s George Clinton in the liner notes — remains a jazz tune despite those hip-hop and funk flourishes. The rhythm section manages a delightfully skewed stomp, the sax varies bleats and whinnies with fat, dank palette-cleansers, and the whole shebang goes from the gutbucket to thin, computer-like modulations. Smell My Dream, indeed.