Dinosaur has been a name in the ‘new’ jazz scene for a few years now. The music speaks for itself, which is good because this collective falls shockingly beneath the radar on the internet. With a group of compositions by Brit trumpeter Laura Jurd, this is a wholly modern perspective on the art form. Dinosaur are not complacent to merely refurbish the same classic jazz idioms with a new skin, granting a greater homage to the pop-synth sounds of the eighties and techno beats of the nineties, rather than to most classical jazz tradition (except in the case of the aptly named “Old Time Sakes”).
“Renewal, Pt. 1” opens the set with a tremendous crescendo, transitioning into a number of synth-based melodies. These are rhythmically-complex, uber-syncopated lines, that substitute for the horn section in a more ‘traditional’ jazz outfit. The tune goes from grand to intimate very quickly, with Laura Jurd leading the way on trumpet, supported by electric bass and drums (completely sans synth at this point). There is a clear sonic separation between electronic and acoustic instruments, with each instrument sitting distinctly within their place in the aural spectrum. This really allows the listener to digest both the playing as a singular whole, while being able to hone-in on any particular player at any particular time.
The playing ends a bit abruptly, to be taken up later in the set as “Renewal, Pt. 2” – An interesting way to offer-up a reprise and maintain recurring themes throughout the CD. As the tune returns, the bass is allowed to shine very brightly, however very briefly, complimented by trumpet. There’s a tendency towards synth-noise with this track (at times being very disruptive, making “Pt. 1” is the stronger of the two).
A few other stand-out tracks include “Forgive, Forget”, which relies on a drone played interchangeably by the bass and keys beneath and diminished-minor melody, harking back towards the late-30’s when big bands would evoke far-off exotic lands with these techniques. The tune immediately transitions into a fun “Old Time Sake”. The group (or record company) chose to feature the second track on the album, “Quiet Thunder” for a video. And interesting choice, that starts out calm and cool, providing multiple changes in dynamic range and instrumental texture (as is the case with most of their tunes.)
However, “Set Free” is the tune that excites me the most. Starting with a folk-tune (yes sung), before transiting into several aforementioned sonic changes. Perhaps the sheer simplicity and charm of the vocal line provides a convenient foothold for the listener to grab hold of.
My sole criticism is that Dinosaur tend to tread safely with melody and harmony – Nothing here is really challenging to the ears. However they do more-than-make-up for this with some daring rhythmic ideas and musical textures. For me the overall sonic impressions of this collection harken back to an earlier time… That time being the nineties acid-jazz movement, rather than any bop-related tendencies from decades further back. With everything said, perhaps less emphasis should be placed on the jazz aspect. Consider Wonder Trail a daring concept with a host of equal influences, doing them each and all equal justice, and you’ll be glad you gave this a listen.