Recorded during their summer 2007 residency, the Magnetic Ear’s Live at the Saturn Bar crackles with energy. From the raucous “Tastee Donut Disaster Zone Dance” to the rare version of pianist Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia” through John Coltrane’s “After the Rain,” the enthusiasm and coherence of all the players show through. Composer, leader, and tenor man Martin Krusche writes up-tempo originals that combine modern jazz harmonies with the shuffling dance rhythms of New Orleans. On the aforementioned tribute to Tastee Donuts as well as “Thrift City,” Krusche’s tunes provoke nimble, light stick work from drummer Justin Peake while baritone saxophonist and sousaphonists Jon Gross and Matt Perrine lay down some fast and deep runs.
Krusche has learned well that combining a baritone saxophone and sousaphone solidifies the groove and adds another angle to the rhythm (ask the Dirty Dozen Brass Band if you don’t believe me.). It even makes the Billy Strayhorn ballad “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” into a song with an obvious swing as the lilt of the low horns gives way to a lyrical mute solo from trombonist Jeff Albert. On other ballads such as “Lush Life”, Krusche’s reedy saxophone takes the proper torchy tone while the other horns harmonize around him, adding to the depth of the arrangement as if there is more than the three pieces behind the soloist. Tunes such as this make the band sound like the more lyrical moments of the World Saxophone Quartet.
Even with this, most of the record is straight ahead, but then there’s “Tchernopuppie.” The drums get bombastic behind a robot march sousaphone riff and Krusche’s sax takes off into the screeching high register. It’s a great way to wake up any audience members who might not be paying attention. “Tchernopuppie” shows the range of this band on this set, where the music is as exotic and tasty as the curry that Krusche cooked up before the music started in the summer of 2007.