"Nice Talk" is the title of the intriguing debut from the jazz trio that goes by the moniker of The Hot @ Nights. Three piece jazz combos are not highly unusual, but the curious instrumental combination utilized by The Hot @ Nights is an unusual blend. Chief writer Chris Boerner's agile improvisation on eight-string guitar, with the added two strings serving to expand the scope and range of his instrument, aids in allowing this unusual configuration to click. He possesses a keen sense of rhythm with the capacity to be creative at every turn. The same can be said of Matt Douglas who plays, puffs, honks, and snarls on an assortment of woodwind instruments. And finally, as with any three-piece group, a powerfully strong drummer is an essential presence. Nick Baglio is equal to the task efficiently going from brisk rat-a-tats, to tight roll presses, to soft brush work, and adding interspersed cymbal exploits. Baglio; masterful on his drum kit like a perpetual well-oiled machine, tirelessly works in tandem with, and at times, against the backdrop of the other two musicians.
They open the CD with a short intro then move into "Abandon Debit," which features a pleasant, easy going melody begun by Boerner and echoed by Douglas. The repetitive nature of this melody glides through changes and cycles with Boerner and Douglas adding clever phrases and the steadily balanced Baglio fueling the musical bonfire.
"Come On! Feel the Illinoise" and "Liquid White Chocolate" are exercises in what H@N excel at: that being creating moving ambient meets contemporary music with heavy-dripping percussion flavor. All three band members equally share the load in crafting unique and mesmerizing avant-garde finery.
Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" is given a futuristic treatment that jolts the senses. Jackson's dramatic melody is merely a launching pad for the three players to unleash a salvo of improvised mayhem. Whereas when Joe Jackson was steppin' out into the night, The Hot @ Nights step out into the hustle and bustle of Times Square meets Indy 500 final lap fury. Each return to the familiar melody grounds the tune for brief moments only to depart at a swift rate.
"ACSlater" provides an eruption of dynamic rhythms set against snake charmer sax mannerisms and phase-shifted guitar runs. The droning melody is offset by drum bursts, sax beckoning, and sparse undistinguishable vocal chants. Near mid-song you get the impression of a clock striking the hour, which induces an ever-quickened pace that builds, and then falls, until the end of the song at which time some swirling sound effects resonate.
Rapid-fire drumming and haunting John Coltrane saxophone explosions are the decree for "C'mon Francis." Throughout Nice Talk the drums are front in the production mix, with sudden time changes the rule of thumb, and movie soundtrack type imagery periodically exists. An even more serious and darker tone pervades "CisforKaddafi." The song cooks at a slow boil, simmering with horn flavored pungency that calls to mind a long-ago Arabian culture while the drumming of Baglio is insistently vigorous.
The finale is "House Of Cards," which is swathed in an atmosphere reminiscent of a funeral dirge slowly making its way along in a fog of murky vapors. This description doesn't do the song due justice, as the composition induces a trance-like state both intoxicating and absorbing in its engrossing allure. The percussion is unorthodox; with drumsticks flailing on drum rims, can lids, brass cymbals, and possibly the kitchen sink. All the while, the unrushed melody trudges along hypnotically casting a light-headed spell. Very ingenious work is at place here. I haven't heard the original song by the group Radiohead; but I do wholly enjoy H@N's rendering.
The Hot @ Nights love to experiment. As with all experiments, not all are totally fruitful. But, their fearlessness is to be commended, and this brand of fresh boldness lies at the very core of all good instrumental jazz. Nice Talk is a bracing debut, filled with originality, character, and intrigue. This expressive combination of features makes for a rousing introduction.