The Aristocrats – Live at Aisle 5

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This was my second time seeing The Aristocrats, and I was looking forward to a more suitable venue as compared to the awkward “Purgatory” at the Masquerade a couplIMG_6100e of years ago.  Alas, Aisle 5 is a retooled “The Five Spot,” slightly more spacious than its previous incarnation but just as much a hell hole.  Sure, they have bright and shiny air conditioning ducts, but they seem to coax a little cool air of them about once every 30 minutes.  If it sounds like I’m whining, I am.  They at least removed a row of booths and now offer a pretty spectacular (bottled) craft beer selection.

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The show began with The Travis Larson Band, who are an instrumental trio featuring the leader’s rock/jazz fusion guitar.  To hear one of their songs is nice, but as the set moves deeper you find different shades of sameness.  They get bonus points for carrying a great attitude for a journeyman band, with an optimistic Californian “right on!” attitude.

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The Aristocrats arrived with a fresh energy, eager to play and entertain with their wit – sometimes this is musical, and it’s guaranteed for song introductions.  They led with two songs from their recent release, Tres Caballeros, “Stupid 7” and “Jack’s Back.”   They played a good variety off all three of their albums, but not necessarily the ones I would have chosen.  For anyone bored of this review already, you should check out the story behind the name of one of their new songs, “The Kentucky Meat Shower.”  When you’re making instrumental music without a particular melody, you can name your song whatever you want.  This band opts for humor. Their music isn’t for everyone, and it was apparent that the audience had a lot of musicians.  I’m not one of those.  The band almost always has “complicated” music – odd time signatures with lots changes in pace and style, both soft and aggressive. 

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To watch three virtuosos is great entertainment.  I’d have to imagine that understanding it would make it all the better.  In other words, despite the frenzied percussion and guitar licks, I’d like just a little more frequent reminder of melodies, something to hold it together.  That’s my main rub with improvisational jazz – it’s hugely entertaining to watch, but the music is somewhat inaccessible.  I generally like this band’s music, but I can’t love it.

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It’s so quirky that when they played “Smuggler’s Corridor,” which may have been lifted from a Sergio Leone western, has a humor to it to begin with, but when heard with their other music,  it’s like they’re making fun of their own work.  In any case, watching guitarist Guthrie Govan is more than worse the price of admission, and I have to love any drummer (Marco Minnerman) who literally rises from his seat because he’s that into pounding his kit.  Bassist Brian Belcher adds muscle to the show, but… the other two command the attention of most people.

The Aristocrats keeping growing their audience.  Maybe next time they’ll make it to a larger venue, one where they can afford the A/C and that isn’t as challenging to see over people’s heads or to take (better) pictures. 

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