When you think of the state of Wisconsin, several things come to mind. Among them, beer, cheese, the Green Bay Packers, etc. Whats next? The next best kept secret is a Milwaukee-based sextet that calls itself Clamnation. Although they have played in the Milwaukee music scene since 1990, this current lineup celebrates it's tenth anniversary with their third release, Volume 3: Malacology.
The members of Clamnation have musical interests blending Latin jazz and post-bop with other world music influences. They began in 1989 as a blues/punk combo: The Clams before evolving a year later and reinventing themselves as Clamnation. Having played at several Milwaukee area events over the years, you'd think that they would have expanded their musical quest outside of Southeast Wisconsin by now.
To understand where they are coming from, check out the horn section. Trumpet player Jamie Breiwick and saxophonist Mike Pauers are both the principal composers and the nucleus for every track on the CD. The fact that this jazz-fusion lineup is lead by a horn section should make those guys from Chicago green with envy. "The Sapling," the fist track, kicks off with a traffic jam trumpet horn intro and segues into the song that has the entire band in a post-bob/free format. Pauers' solo sings of Coltrane. The percussion team of Tom Presser and Jay Arpin provides a slight Latin tinge. "How Do You Know" and "Cabeza Rojo" establishes the horn section as it blends both Pauers and Breiwick together and trading off each other's solos. At the same time, they never try to overshadow their bandmates whose individual contribution shine, especially Presser, who on congas,shows how he throws down the gauntlet.
Highlights include "Crack Snacker" which starts with a danceable bass riff followed by an adequate chicken scratch guitar riff by Dietz, thus frming a soulful, funky acid jazz piece. "IHOP," which features Breiwick on flugelhorn, is an infectious mid-funk tune in which he and Pauers keep the solos heavy on improvisation while cooperating with each other to keep the track from sounding dull. Breiwick and Pauers help to keep tracks like "East Henry Clay" and "Akimbo" from sounding weak, save for "The Sylph."
Despite a few glitches, this CD does have several moments and this lineup has what it takes, especially if they can make a little more noise and expand their improvisational skills on their next recording. If they can do that, Clamnation would no longer become the next best kept secret in Wisconsin.