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Jim Hobbs Trio

Cat. No.: SHCD133

Jim Hobbs  alto saxophone
Timo Shanko  bass
Django Carranza  drums

Track Listing:
1. Off Blue Shirt (Jim Hobbs) 5:49
2. A Possé (Timo Shanko) 4:00
3. Balderama-Lama-Ding-Dong (Jim Hobbs) 3:42
4. Chandini (Jim Hobbs) 4:36
5. B. Now C. (Timo Shanko) 3:10
6. Devil Sews Expensive Clothes (Jim Hobbs) 5:04
7. Quit Stallin' (Timo Shanko) 5:19
8. Pulaski Skyway (Jim Hobbs) 2:06
9. The Moon, a Star and a Little Red Car (Jim Hobbs) 7:09
10. The Ol' Pick and Roll (Jim Hobbs) 5:40
11. V (Jim Hobbs) 2:08
12. (Up Against a Wall) With a Chicken Wing (Jim Hobbs) 4:56
13. Babadita (Jim Callahan) 7:45
14. Travel Song (Jim Hobbs) 4:45
15. Bad Medicine (Jim Hobbs) 4:30

Total time: 71:02
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"Jim Hobbs plays with a sharp and peppery saxophone sound and has a tight trio who take a firm grip on the music, directions are clearly indicated from the outset. Theirs is not a music which suffers from hesitation. The thrust and power is there and so is the skill and knowledge. Vehemence and hot-headedness exist side by side with ritual incantation and rhyme. The childlike aspect is united with the youthful fervor."
Thomas Millroth, Gränslöst, February 1995
Liner Notes

"He's absorbed Ornette's style of playing without copying it. He's really taking harmolodics in a new direction," says Bern Nix (former Coleman Prime Time guitarist) about alto saxist Jim Hobbs of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra, a collective ensemble with bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Django Carranza (appearing on their debut Silkheart CD Babadita).
What initially led Hobbs to listen to Coleman's early trio recordings was his fascination with trumpeter Don Cherry. "I liked the way he would smear a bebop line," said Hobbs. After hearing Cherry on Coleman's landmark This Is Our Music, Hobbs immersed himself in Cherry's efforts, listening to Orient, Where's Brooklyn? and Symphony for the Improvisers. From these recordings, he went on to investigate the duos between Cherry and Ed Blackwell.
Through his studies with Joe Viola and George Garzone at Berklee College of Music, Hobbs began to expand his sax techniques into an understanding of musical concepts. At the center of Hobbs' thinking is a sense of humor and parody. "I learned to play a serious vibrato which I turned into my own sarcastic vibrato," said Hobbs.
There's also an appreciation for melody and intense energy in Hobbs' voicings which harks back to his earlier years before he discovered the late Coltrane period and Duke Ellington's suites. "Willie Nelson holds a big influence over me as a song stylist, I like the way he carries a melody. Before I got into jazz, I listened to a lot of heavy metal. It had a lot of energy, but the improvisation in jazz gave me more room on sax," said Hobbs.
The Fully Celebrated Orchestra began in 1986 with Hobbs, Shanko and drummer Ray Anthony. The Orchestra (as it was then known) played on the streets and Boston's Harvard Square for change. They later added trombonist James P. Callahan III and became The Fully Celebrated Orchestra. When Anthony left to go on the road with bluesman Eddie Kirkland, Carranza joined the group.
Hobbs and Shanko previously met Carranza while playing in Mackie Burnett's calypso band, Panorama. Some of their use of nursery rhyme motifs derives from their experience with steel pan drummer Burnett. After five years in Boston, Hobbs and Shanko decided to move to New York City, where they played in the trio Endangered Species with drummer Gerard Faroux. Playing at Visiones and Lower East Side venues in New York City, they developed a following among the alternative rock crowd. Keith Knox at Silkheart learned of Hobbs by listening to a demo tape of a rock band in which Hobbs had recently replaced tenor saxist Gary Joynes (whom producer Bruce Morris had recommended to Knox). Fascinated with Hobbs' alto playing, Knox solicited demo tapes of The Fully Celebrated Orchestra.
During the two year lapse between hearing the demo tape and the recording date for Silkheart, The Fully Celebrated Orchestra's sound has changed considerably. In that time, Hobbs and Carranza have both become fathers, and their group sound has matured.
At one moment, Hobbs' sax plays with you like a teaseful child who scampers away at just the right moment. At the next, his swirling lines hold the mystical quality of a snake charmer. What propels it all forward are rhythms that change from frantic energy to calypso beats. Carnival melodies envelop march tempi. Repetition darts along whimsically and then dissolves into furious screaming.
Bassist Time Shanko's single line patterns are never obtrusive, and provide an often understated textural feel to the rhythmical intensity of Carranza's drumming. As the composer on "A Possť", "B. Now C"., and "Quit Stallin'" (the latter allows him solo space), Shanko is the signature member in The Fully Celebrated Orchestra's frenetic rhythmic energy. What particularly impressed Keith Knox during the recording sessions were Shanko's organisational skills. Shanko, now 24, was born and raised in the California desert. Since moving to Boston in 1986, he has been around the world with bluesman Eddie Kirkland.
Drummer Django Carranza provides a supportive foundation by implying rhythms which are complemented by Shanko and Hobbs. He reveals the trio's background in calypso, and adds some playfully inventive march tempi. Now age 26, Carranza was born in San Francisco, where he played with ex-Ellington trombonist Vince Prudente. In 1987, he moved to Boston where he has backed every reggae 'superstar' to come through the area.
Hobbs, now only 25, grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he heard local saxist Morgy Craig playing standards in the lounge areas of local hotels. "I like his big sound. Hearing him play whetted my interest in saxophone." Starting on violin in his school band in fourth grade, Hobbs quickly shifted to sax a year later. Bassist Brian Derrick would pass through Fort Wayne and Hobbs studied with him. Through exposure to other touring musicians, in his private studies with David Lehrman, and through high school jazz band sessions (under the direction of Ed King), Hobbs heard music ranging from Charlie Parker to Willie Nelson.
On "Chandini" the rhythms are textural, with Hobbs' mournful sax sounding both hauntingly sensual and incisively lyrical. Shanko's long brooding lines and quivering arco style shadow some of Hobbs' lines and provide dark textural edges.
More sinister in tone is the "Devil Sews Expensive Clothes". With his ominous vibrato, Shanko evokes a menacing undercurrent to Hobbs' screaming blues.
Hobbs' brooding elongated phrases set against Carranza's processional rhythms and the arco textures of the bass, inject "The Moon, a Star and a Little Red Car" with a sense of melancholy. Shanko's arco playing grittily ascends along Hobbs' elongated lines but is most striking when he saws his bow with acute rhythmic intensity, and when he later roars like an elephant.
The rollicksome melodies associated with Omette Coleman's harmolodic ventures are most prominently displayed in Hobbs' reeling pace on "The Ol' Pick and Roll". The rhythm section pulsates here setting tempi at breakneck speed, then occasionally swings gracefully.
"V" tilts and turns scurrying one way, then another, at furious pace with both jazz inflections and the non-stop energy of punk rock. That same sense of rhythmical subterfuge and an insistent melodic refrain take on a humorous dimension in "(Up Against a Wall) With a Chicken Wing". Babadita (penned by trombonist James P. Callahan III) swirls out of an abyss, stops, measures the surroundings with the cynicism of a time traveler witnessing an ancient ritual, then, confident of his place cavorts and swings gleefully about at a festival of his newly found peers before languishing to a stop.
"Travel Song" is an upbeat happy march worthy of any picaresque rogue. Shanko plays more melodically here, especially during his solo.
The Fully Celebrated Orchestra smacks of originality with both Coltranesque and Colemanic traditions in their wake. In his tone and vibrato, it is clear that Hobbs has absorbed Ornette Coleman's style, but he is by no means a clone. His sardonic comments on popular themes are those of a young man gleaned on TV and adventure films. His movement up and down is both propulsive and humorously playful. He'll adroitly stretch out his vibrato and quickly cut it off for a sense of anticipation met only by brusque denial.
It's a music replete with parody, circus humor and brooding depths. We hear frenetic sputters, slow melodies, adventurous marches, Latin carnivalesque, sensual blues, Middle Eastem tones, a dark gritty vibrato, references to popular themes as well as toy soldier themes that are child-like in their lyricism. Is it nightmare, childhood dreams or surreal fantasy?

Robert Hicks
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