Revolutionary Snake Ensemble

Live Snakes

(Accurate Records)

Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Live Snakes, album cover, OffBeat Magazine, July 2014

Since 1990, the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble has been blowing out the East Coast with their New Orleans brass band meets Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman blend of fiery yet booty-shaking music.

Their third album combines live tracks from concerts, radio broadcasts, and live-in-the-studio sessions. And it’s a stone cold killer diller!

The album shows what the band does best: make rhythmically propulsive arrangements over which the horns can riff and solo with more complex harmonies and textures than usually found for music this tight. It’s sophisticated dance music.

Tunes like “Parade” sound exactly like the title, while their version of “Caravan” turns it into a mysterious slow burner more appropriate for the title than 99 percent of the other version in existence. The highlight of the record is the free improvised dirge of “For Karen” that leads into the spiritual “I’ll Fly Away.”

This combination takes its cue from Sonny Simmons’ “Coltrane in Paradise” as well as echoes of Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders. It has a slightly abstract build that takes its own natural time as it grows in power and depth before leader Ken Field’s alto proclaims the spiritual’s familiar melody, and the band falls in in typical New Orleans funeral fashion.

Most bands can’t get the New Orleans stuff right, but the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble is one of the few who does and then takes it in fascinating directions. As a bonus, there are two remixes at the end that sound like cut up mid-1970s Miles Davis.