Cinema, Circus & Spaghetti

This NYC quartet—led by Steven Bernstein, (slide trumpet, alto horn) with Briggan Krauss (alto and baritone sax), Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums, gongs, vibes)—whose name appears to be trading on the flash-mob craze, has actually been around for 17 years. Bernstein defines the group’s ethos thusly: “Jazz used to be popular music. People would go out to clubs, listen to the music, go home, and get laid. Simple as that. We’re bringing that spirit back.” There’s a tremendous amount of spirit here, but I can’t imagine their interpretations of Fellini’s surrealistic films’ striking scores (composed by Nino Rota) will result in much horizontal action. Rota’s dreamily haunting accompaniment to Amarcord is, fittingly, the first track, and there are echoes of it in some of the other 11 tunes. Then things start to get a little weird as they interpret “Juliet of the Spirits” and “La Strada,” before revisiting Amarcord on “Volpina,” which gets a joyously percussive street-band treatment that abruptly segues into the frenetic free-jazz Paparazzo segment of “La Dolce Vita.” The wheezy horns also get their freak on in other Dolce and Amarcord passages, while “Zamparo” is mostly bass and drums, as is the quietly reflective “Gelsomina” (also from La Strada). This charmingly chaotic CD is not for the faint of heart.