Tacoma, Washington native saxophonist Cliff Colon has taken his love of jazz and his memories from childhood of playing the videogame "Contra" and meshed them into a sonic manifestation that has a whiff of post-bop carbons skillet over a jamband fire on his latest release Contraband. Though the term "contraband" may relate to narcotic smugglers and those involved in nefarious activities, there is nothing shady or diabolical about Colon’s music. In fact, most of the time you will feel like you are listening to a band playing in a grand ballroom. The music, which is based on the tracks composed by Kyouhei Sada and Hidenori Maezawa for the Contra videogame, have lush orchestrations that twitter merrily while spreading a fragrant joy throughout the room. I cannot say that Colon’s tunes sound exactly like the music from the Contra videogame, but the album certainly creates an atmosphere that has an effect on you.
Effective jazz might be a good way to describe Colon’s music with tunes that influence one’s mood whether it’s bouncing around like a jack-rabbit in "Jungle," or reclining comfortably while sipping a cocktail like the mood that "End Credits" pervades. More nail-biting tracks are "Base" and "The Boss" which rise and fall with the anxiety of a gaggle of teenagers sneaking around their parents to partake in having fun somewhere. No matter which way Colon goes, his objective is for the tunes to be fun. This might be why the tracks resemble the activity level and stimulating impromptus of a jamband like the sizzling flails of "Waterfall." Colon evokes a lusty mood in the soft sinuous patterns of "Snow Field" accented with a Spanish-flare in Frank Seeberger’s guitar chords. The music stands out due to its exotic appeal and its tufts of gently brushed undulations. The band snaps out of this spell with the brisk tempo and hard-bop motifs of "Energy Zone," which form a trail of toe-tapping solos from keyboardist Eric Verlinde and Colon’s saxophone. The energy level remains high with the rapid twitters of the saxophones zigzagging vivaciously through "Alien Lair" before winding down to a drifting mist in the final track "End Credits."
I cannot judge if Colon’s interpretation of the music from his favorite childhood videogame Contra is accurate, but the music from his album Contraband is startling effective in touching people‘s senses. The music will most certainly influence your mood and covet your senses in harmonious swirls. I suppose the experience is something like playing a videogame where all of your senses are engaged in the game. Colon’s offering Contraband is actually able to stand on its own as a form of contemporary jazz that affects people’s senses in an inviting way.