Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers Hooray!

by Todd Snelgrove

Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers

The first sound you'll hear on the the new Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers cd is a bombastic percussive oomph before launching immediately into a gleeful melee of twisted klezmer that tromps through time signatures like they weren't even there.

It's a fitting opening to an incessantly fun album rife with tight playing and intricate arrangements. Hooray! is the second offering from the Mash Potato Mashers, a small army of Ottawa's finest players at the helm of musical mad scientist Mike Essoudry.

One of the capital's finest and most prolific jazz drummers, Essoudry devised MEMPM in 2010 as an eclectic all-original marching band and immediately set to writing music. Armed with an unnatural sense of harmony and a talented group of players he quickly released their self-titled debut album and started booking the nonet into festivals far and wide.

Drawing upon a myriad of different marching traditions while staying firmly planted in jazz, Hooray! sounds like a celebration. An energetic romp split up into eleven creative bursts with titles like Jumping Bean, Huff & Puff, and Tripple Tipple, the album is more focused than the group's first outing and will likely stay in your cd rotation for a while. Smart and playful with a sound that approaches Charles Mingus' big band work, it's jazz that can keep both your brain and your butt entertained through repeated listens.

Music this interesting is bound to get a bit weird at times and the nasal vocal intro to Dick Dalestein takes care of the quirk as early as the second track. Showing off his compositional versatility, Essoudry easily segues from the realm of wacky to vignettes that are downright gorgeous, like in Baby Baby, a straightforward '70's era 4/4 melodic glide that only sneaks in the 5/4's in the most unwonky ways possible.

Okay, then it goes double-time at the end, but therein lies the fun.

While much of the album consists of frantic harmonic explorations peppered with flailing solos that border on anarchy, there are poignant moments of relative calm. The first half of Big 'ol Fool slows the pace down to a drunken stumble that shows off the thoughtful interplay at work. With so many fingers in the pie there's always a risk that chaos will reign but even at it's most frenetic Essoudry keeps his Mashers firmly grounded.

The album slams on the brakes for the closer, ...and Bob's Your Uncle, a lethargic whole note chordal sketch that ends with a lone sousaphone delving to the very limits of human hearing. It's an apt ending to an album that is at once poignant and whimsical.

While the red-shirted, megaphone-toting ensemble screams “novelty” as they march stageless through crowds at bars and festivals, this album proves the are anything but. Hooray! is a thoughtful, clever musical experiment in portable acoustic mini-big band that never abandons musicality. Free jazz it is not. Joyful, clever, intricate and accessible it is.

And fun. Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers is fun.

Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers will be hosting a cd release party on Friday, October 14th at The Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec. Tickets are $10, the show will begin at 9pm.

The first sound you'll hear on the the new Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers cd is a bombastic percussive oomph before launching immediately into a gleeful melee of twisted klezmer that tromps through time signatures like they weren't even there.

It's a fitting opening to an incessantly fun album rife with tight playing and intricate arrangements. Hooray! is the second offering from the Mash Potato Mashers, a small army of Ottawa's finest players at the helm of musical mad scientist Mike Essoudry.

One of the capital's finest and most prolific jazz drummers, Essoudry devised MEMPM in 2010 as an eclectic all-original marching band and immediately set to writing music. Armed with an unnatural sense of harmony and a talented group of players he quickly released their self-titled debut album and started booking the nonet into festivals far and wide.

Drawing upon a myriad of different marching traditions while staying firmly planted in jazz, Hooray! sounds like a celebration. An energetic romp split up into eleven creative bursts with titles like Jumping Bean, Huff & Puff, and Tripple Tipple, the album is more focused than the group's first outing and will likely stay in your cd rotation for a while. Smart and playful with a sound that approaches Charles Mingus' big band work, it's jazz that can keep both your brain and your butt entertained through repeated listens.

Music this interesting is bound to get a bit weird at times and the nasal vocal intro to Dick Dalestein takes care of the quirk as early as the second track. Showing off his compositional versatility, Essoudry easily segues from the realm of wacky to vignettes that are downright gorgeous, like in Baby Baby, a straightforward '70's era 4/4 melodic glide that only sneaks in the 5/4's in the most unwonky ways possible.

Okay, then it goes double-time at the end, but therein lies the fun.

While much of the album consists of frantic harmonic explorations peppered with flailing solos that border on anarchy, there are poignant moments of relative calm. The first half of Big 'ol Fool slows the pace down to a drunken stumble that shows off the thoughtful interplay at work. With so many fingers in the pie there's always a risk that chaos will reign but even at it's most frenetic Essoudry keeps his Mashers firmly grounded.

The album slams on the brakes for the closer, ...and Bob's Your Uncle, a lethargic whole note chordal sketch that ends with a lone sousaphone delving to the very limits of human hearing. It's an apt ending to an album that is at once poignant and whimsical.

While the red-shirted, megaphone-toting ensemble screams “novelty” as they march stageless through crowds at bars and festivals, this album proves the are anything but. Hooray! is a thoughtful, clever musical experiment in portable acoustic mini-big band that never abandons musicality. Free jazz it is not. Joyful, clever, intricate and accessible it is.

And fun. Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers is fun.

Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers will be hosting a cd release party on Friday, October 14th at The Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec. Tickets are $10, the show will begin at 9pm.