Seattle’s all-woman Tiptons Sax Quartet was originally called the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet in honor of the big-band musician who lived as a man for half a century but was posthumously discovered to be a woman. Last year, co-leaders Jessica Lurie and Amy Denlo’s Zipa! and Spoot labels jointly released the Tiptons’ Laws of Motion CD, a fun romp that drew on New Orleans marching band, klezmer, gypsy music, and modal jazz influences.
Two of Lurie’s compositions on that album were drawn from Shop of Wild Dreams, a 10-song suite the group has been performing live with a painter and a videographer since 2006. The disc is a recording of the full suite by Lurie’s Brooklyn-based Ensemble with bassist Todd Sickafoose handling production duties.
The unusual instrumentation (guitarist Brandon Seabrook on banjo as well as the leader on accordion and ukelele) and off-kilter rhythmic feel of songs like “Grey Ocean” and “Circus Rain” put one in mind of Tom Waits or Mark Growden’s apocalyptic cabaret. Instrumental pieces like “Grinch” and “Pinjur” have the chamber-jazz flavor of John Zorn’s and Dave Douglas’ similar work. Lurie, though, is clearly her own woman, both as an improviser and a singer-songwriter. A smooth but not slick vocalist, she sings lines like “Come on in and take a chair / Just put your heart down anywhere … Trade in your torch for fireflies … And a box of pennies for your eyes” with an air of cool detachment. Her sound on alto and tenor saxes is dark and ruminative, but her greatest strength is as a composer. The moody melodies of the title track and the closing “Anthem” will resonate in your mind’s ear long after the disc has finished playing.
Jessica Lure Ensemble Shop of Wild Dreams