For their latest outing they do not add guests as they sometimes do, but stick with a new quartet format for a program of hard bop, classic Blue-Note oriented music. Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup 153) refers to a small town in Pennsylvania once a part of the thriving local coal industry, now fallen on hard times and renamed Jim Thorpe in honor of the sports hero and with the hopes of attracting tourism.
There are seven Moppa Elliot numbers to be heard here, all fitting in with the hard bop way but played with some outside avant tendencies that come in at times rather brilliantly in ways that may make you smile and even laugh. In my case it is the laughter of appreciation of their adept and seemless multi-language jazz attack. Irabagon's alto and Ron Stabinsky's piano often as not are the instigators of the bad-boy transgressions that no doubt would result in detention for all four if this was music high school.
Yet the music is dead serious at the same time, like Don Pullen could be when he gravitated out of changes-oriented soloing to expressively free outness.
There is enough brilliance from Irabagon and Stabinsky here to keep you listening intently, yet the compositions have the stylistic authenticity and contributory advancement that makes the band convincing on more than one level.
No, this isn't going to raise a furor like "Blue" did. It is no rote restating of the literal past but a serious interaction with it, a forwarding of it, a renewal of older forms for today and a confrontation of today with yesterday.
For that it is a must-hear. This is seriously ahead jazz with the ability to laugh. It's another feather in the caps of the players and the pen of Moppa Elliot. So I suggest you dig into it.