from the March 2011 issue of Earshot Jazz:
Reptet, At the Cabin
Artist Recording Collective
Reptet is less a jazz outfit than just what they are: skilled musicians with primarily Northwest-reared chops shaped over nearly a decade together. Reptet’s fourth release, At the Cabin, is out on the Artist Recording Collective label, a platform for member-based record promotion out of Kansas City. The release shows a hodgepodge of skills and styles, but members Samantha Boshnack (brass), Nelson Bell (brass), Chris Credit (winds), Izaak Mills (winds), Tim Carey (bass), and John Ewing (drums) do bring common references to the sextet. The multi-instrumentalists pull from among twenty-plus instruments and reference styles ranging from jazz, rock, and ska to avant-garde, punk, and eastern European folk music. With a plethora of performance timbres, At the Cabin stands out as snap shot of the band right now, a palm full of grooves showing each member’s character and performed as a group.
The record opens with somewhat of a suite of compositions by Boshnack. “Mayfield Safety” launches with strong marching drums from Ewing, above immovable bass brass licks from Bell and horns. The sextet shifts into an extended bridge section, then cools off and fizzles out on some skronk sax. Next is “Snow Leopard x3” and “Milky Shakes.” These first three tracks make full use of the sextet’s collective character, though do stand out stylistically as Boshnack’s – patient horn interplay supported by heavy bass grooves, some with structural rhythmic phrasings that lend a larger dimension than a sum of parts.
That character is especially present on “Snow Leopard x3” and later on Boshnack’s “Mock Arena,” a steady piece with clever, crunchy drum sounds from Ewing, and bright horns, all landing with an afrobeat vocabulary. The vibe allows soloists Bell and Mills to comment at leisure.
Further character shines on the record with Carey’s “Songitty Song” and the two Mills pieces at the end of the record. “Songitty Song” is a cohesive piece, as the name itself suggests, with a light Mingus quality. Mills brings another two clear musical points-of-view to the album. On “Trash Can Race,” the band thrashes somewhere between Zappa and Zorn, and Mills juxtaposes his flute solo over a gritty jam. After a string of rhythmic hits, the piece moves into a half-time psychedelia on the same riff, with some appropriate comping by guitar guest Mark Oi. Then “Pills” follows in the same vein but with a more ambitious time signature to riff on, vital for the ensemble, who delight in elements of the raucous eastern European folk marching music.
Reptet also delights in a particular brand of humor that surfaces on the record. Tracks “Milky Shakes” and “Agendacide,” for example, incorporate vocal riffs that seem to reference inside jokes. For a band whose existence spans eleven years, five in its current iteration, with a mix of musical personalities, a bit of home-cooked humor is likely a given. It doesn’t affect the overall appeal of the At the Cabin, and that humor is evidence of Reptet’s tendency to give permissions to each other that not all bands can afford. The result is a band difficult to qualify, but exciting in its potential to delight and surprise.
Don’t take this reviewer’s word for it: Reptet holds their At the Cabin CD release party on March 10 at the Tractor Tavern, 9pm. Eyvind Kang, Jessika Kenney, and Geoff Harper open.