Chris Washburn And The Syotos Band, Land Of Nod

Britt Robson

By Britt Robson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Trombonist Chris Washburne and his septet mix the combustible flair of salsa with the splashy funk of '80s bands like Defunkt and the cerebral-but-spunky turns of rhythm reminiscent of Carla Bley. He intends his work to be political, but you don't have to realize the first three tunes riff on flag colors red, white and blue — or, for that matter, that Washburne was once so unsure of beating cancer that his Syotos Band is named for the phrase, “see you on the other side” — to enjoy the stylistic hybrids and fragrant sentiments that pervade Land of Nod.

Political jazz you can nod your head to.

Sure, a portentous, unruly intro acquires a bit more freight when the song is named “Guantanamo,” but when the drums and congas lock down a shoulder-rolling, blaxploitation-soundtrack kind of groove and Washburne throws his fat horn into the fray, triggering a gradually increasing salsa flow, it's just inspired music. Is the flitting, scrabbling, “Op Ed” supposed to add up? If not, the shards and pieces, especially composer Ole Mathisen's sax solo, are individually sufficient. I wish the pensive Ukrainian folk song “Gregory Don't Go to the Village Dances” didn't spontaneously combust into Latin jazz two-thirds of the way through, but a faithful take on Horace Silver's ballad (the second “Peace” on the disc, after Washburne blows up a juicy storm on Ornette Coleman's “Peace” just before then) quietly compensates. Whether you want the meaning of the title track, “Land of Nod” to refer to an acquiescent American public watching our freedoms erode, or a place where everyone bobs and weaves their heads to the grooves, the song, like the rest of the tunes, successfully stimulates potent, positive energy. You won't nod off to this.