Record Review - 2 June 24 2004

Matt Steckler, leader of the acclaimed Boston jazz sextet Dead Cat Bounce, is prone to straddling studied experimentation and flat-out irreverence. That tug of war is evident in Bounce's lineup: a front line of four saxophones, anchored by bass and drums.

That unconventional roster yields hearty results, shining a light on the possibilities inherent in the interplay of tenor, alto, soprano and baritone — plus the occasional flute or clarinet. But Steckler's bubbling spirit kicks loose any preconceptions of an overly scholarly dissertation; Home Speaks to the Wandering, with its self-consciously artsy song titles ("I Once Was Vaccinated with a Phonograph Needle") and ambling, pell-mell structures, offers pockets of bristling exuberance bordering on hyperactivity.

"Angelic & Podlike" sports a short squall of buffoonish, Squirrel Nut Zippers mayhem before settling down into its central supper-club vibe (only to launch from there into another sphere); the insistent "Hepcat Revival" schizophrenically skitters between tempos and moods (a 2/4 saunter, a street-level rhythm section breakdown), rallying in its second half with an amped-up charge punctuated by energized yowls. Even the traditional "Dis You, Dear" breaks up its familiar Miles Davis bop with Steckler's flute runs and echoes of muggy New Orleans jazz. Wandering roams so often, it never feels fully grounded, and the sax-heavy arrangements can leave one yearning for a refreshing blast of dirty trumpet. But the excursions are engrossing enough to counter any motion sickness.

Dead Cat Bounce plays Eyedrum Sat., June 26, 9:30 p.m. $7.