NYC Jazz Record

here is the review from February’s issue of the NYC Jazz Record:

If Not Inertia
Ergo (Cuneiform)
by Kurt Gottschalk

On their two previous releases, the outfit known as Ergo has fine-tuned an unusual and evocative mix of tautness and incongruity. The trio is given to using electronics and uncommon voices (a ringing Fender Rhodes keyboard, some well-placed whistling) in ways that supplement their sound without exactly complementing it. Trombonist and bandleader Brett Sroka crafts some tightly-woven compositions, but there are wild cards at play in the mix. Sounds arise as if they are extraneous information to be ignored except, of course, that since the band is making all the sounds, all information is intended.

Ergo occupies the jazzish side of what might be called Brooklyn New Music, a more rock-leaning movement than old-fashioned New Music. It’s still instrumental music fronted by a horn, but lies on both sides of the imaginary divide. Sroka also plays in the psych-noise band 12,000 Trees and brings some of that energy here. Shawn Baltazor is still at the drums and Sam Harris joins them on keyboards on the new If Not Inertia, but Sroka also enlists a pair of guitarists: Mary Halvorson appears on three of the album’s seven tracks and Sebastian Kruger on one more.

Given their proclivities, the band, which on its own can sound like a quintet at one moment and an amalgam of organic accidents the next, is the perfect setting for Halvorson, whose thick, deliberate guitar playing has been known to cohabitate with such variables as the noise of a faulty wire or the idiosyncrasies of her own electronic manipulations. Her presence is nicely set off by Kruger’s acoustic guitar, which floats over the album’s closing track like it’s wandering through a dream. There are a lot of unusual elements at play but what makes Ergo so great is that in the end all the parts fit.

For more information, visit This group is at Cornelia Street Café Feb. 28th. See Calendar.

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