Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Unsupervised—Elevator

I’ve seen The Unsupervised more than any other band over the last few years. It’s always a treat heading downtown on a Saturday night, dodging all the wannabe Snookis and quasi-Situations on Granville Street, and ducking down an alleyway to find a quiet room in which to see The Unsupervised rip it up in the company of five or six other fans.

Of all Jeff Younger’s projects—I’ve reviewed The Nudger and Devil Loops here—he’s been pushing The Unsupervised the hardest of late. As well he should; they’re a pretty complete package—an irreverent jazz band that can get funky and complex/proggy. Their approach reminds me of Led Bib, albeit a little more polite; Canadian, if you will. This recording, made to accompany their summer tour, collects their prime material. Although you really need to see The Unsupervised live, Elevator is a nice souvenir, with six action-packed pieces that stand up effortlessly away from the stage.

Although he’s The Unsupervised’s composer/supervisor, guitarist Younger hangs back for the most part, letting the rhythm section (Ben Brown, drums; Russell Sholberg, bass) and horns (Kristian Naso, trumpet; Colin Maskell, sax) duke it out.
He does turn it up on “Sandalfoot,” a funky tune with some heavy (for jazz) powerchord breakdowns and riffs avec distortion. Overall, the songs swing between freewheeling sections and composed, disciplined passages. There are enough tight, syncopated unison parts to keep any math rocker on his/her toes. How the band keeps on top of it all I’ll never know, but then again I’m not as musically edumacated as them.

Each track highlights a different strength or aspect of The Unsupervised’s approach. “Inches” is a stellar showcase for drummer Ben Brown, giving him lots of space to flit around as the rest of the band provides commentary in the form of unison stabs and swells overtop. “Kornatta Glanke,” the longest track, opens abstractly with the rhythm section scrabbling around the attic before being displaced by whimpering horns, then Younger takes a solo turn, gradually leading the band into the main theme five minutes into the 10-minute piece. There’s a staccato ensemble section, a lengthy sax solo over churning 5/4 chords before it all comes home with a staccato reprise. It sums up everything The Unsupervised are about—a jazzy cornucopia of heady goodness.