Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Australian jazz trio Milton Man Gogh’s latest EP seems designed to alienate casual listeners. First of all, there’s that word jazz. And this isn’t the relaxing type of jazz designed to have a couple of drinks and then settle down to bed with either. The influence of bebop is rife, with frantically running scales and half blurted out melodies pervading most of the tracks. The rhythms are made of harsh, angular syncopations with continuous stops and starts as the musicians seemingly chase one another around a musical phrase. All the while, the harmonies barely have any time to establish themselves, only being supported by Zac Sakrewski’s fumbling and distorted bass. However, the musicianship’s incredible and that’s all that matters, in tracks that seem meant to be stream of consciousness-based rather than fully thought out musical statements.
There’s obviously a general worked out structure to it all, but it's blurry, being based on certain recurring musical landmarks. They typically end a piece with Andrew Saragossi’s sax rising into the stratosphere, squealing and crying its last death throes, begging for itself to be put out of its misery, as the drumming and bass playing only serve to get increasingly erratic. At some point, the noise has only one place left to go - back to sounding like music. But at least the trio seem to be having a good time with this one, easily moving from heavy metal to a tightly-knit jazz trio as the mood takes them.
The smoother middle tracks (See You Round the Traps and The Great Reset Part 1) seem almost apologetic for the noise before, and that which is still to come; with Saragossi’s tentative, almost cautious playing which is constantly punctuated by the wash of the cymbal. The sax seems almost afraid to disturb the listener any more than necessary. Saragossi has that unique ability to make the instrument sing, as if you can almost make out some secret lyrics buried beneath the jazz, more direct than real words could ever be.
Not to diminish the role of the others of course. Benjamin Shannon’s eclectic drumming (mixing heavy metal thrashing with bebop discipline) are the heart and soul. Sakrewski’s mix of traditional upright bass and distorted bass guitar gives Shannon’s rhythms something to contend with, whilst supplying a melodic counterpoint to Saragossi, helping make this trio sing.
An interesting album that isn’t light on the ears, if you like heavy metal or progressive rock and want to get into jazz, this might be for you. If you like jazz and dislike metal, but don’t have much else to do today, you might as well give it a go as well. They obviously don’t care whether you like it or not, so best to approach accordingly.