Here’s a high-art concept for you: live scoring a film in real time with a modern jazz outfit, then removing said film and letting the soundtrack create its own mind movie. It’s not always easy to tell which of these 30 or so movie(s) were screened at the Ace Hotel’s Three Keys room when these tracks were laid down over the space of a month—but of course none of that matters, because although Think Less, Hear More has played along with silent versions of Donnie Darko, Fight Club, Ghostbusters and several other well-known cinematic milestones, this album is meant to be judged as a standalone piece of music.
If that’s possible. Would your average avant-jazz listener visualize these performances in their own right if they didn’t know the aesthetic behind them? Hard to say, but it’s a fascinating exercise. The three numbered pieces that frame the album, all named “Come Out to Play,” conjure up a sort of postmodern subway ride, sleek and cold and efficient, one where the anger of the urban landscape (played by Smokey Brown’s increasingly discordant guitar) eventually rises up and overtakes the train, forcing it to a slow stop. Cyrus Nabipoor’s trumpet carries on an annoyingly brash yet charismatic one-sided conversation that takes place during a gang strut in “There Are Wolves Within,” which slowly opens up to reveal a whole West Side Story-size panorama. “Knock Out Ned” displays the fancy footwork of a boxing training montage, thanks largely to the deft stickwork of drummer and project mastermind Kyle Poehling. Can an astute listener figure out a scene like “Human Batteries” based on the title alone? Probably. Should one Google the song titles? Only if you don’t mind spoilers—not for the movies screened at the Ace, but for the one this augmented quintet is able to create between your ears.