Even for a twenty-first century NOLA transplant, Seth Hitsky took a strange path here, moving from Detroit’s rock clubs to playing jazz, cabaret piano and world music in Chicago. Then he somehow landed at Cafe Negril with these guys, waxing (okay, encoding) about 80 minutes of cool improvisational jam in just one rainy-day session and holding everything down with just an electric piano and some slightly buzzsaw synth.
A compact disc’s worth of music split up into two CDs, the Black Dragons’ debut only rains about half the time: The four songs on the first disc serve as sort of a suite, chronicling the weather as it deceptively snuck in (the title track), churned up impressively (“Will It Ever Stop”), faked its own death (“Casters Through Puddles”) then finally faded slowly (“Gray Light and Light Rain”). The second disc feels a little like leftovers, but in a fun way—less dramatic, more lighthearted and playful, almost domestic.
Throughout it all, Hitsky keeps order—drummer Walt Lundy threatens to break out of the groove on purpose at any moment, though everyone else seems content to wait his turn. The MVP of a great horn section is the trumpet of Ryan Robertson, backed and occasionally assisted by the dual trombones of Jon Ramm and Jimmy Brinkman (one in each channel!). The Dragons may or may not be just a side project for someone as broadly talented as Seth, but it’s nice to know the self-proclaimed “Wandering Jew” is at least keeping one house in the home of acid jazz.