Pugs & Crows' Fantastic Pictures couldn't get much better
Fantastic Pictures (Independent)
Just about the only way this music could be better would be if Pugs & Crows brought in another guitarist to bolster its sound—as the local quintet did on the opening night of this year’s TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Hornby Island’s Tony Wilson was the guest, with his woozy slide lines and plucked harmonics adding an extra dimension of beauty to Fantastic Pictures’ “Rats That Now Star” and “Hibernation”.
It’s a shame Wilson isn’t on the disc, but those who didn’t catch Pugs & Crows opening for Bill Frisell will never miss his absence. This is music of great strength and beauty. Just what kind of music it is, though, is up for debate. With ubiquitous bassist Russell Sholberg and gutsy pianist Cat Toren onboard, there’s certainly a strong jazz feel to the Pugs & Crows sound, but bandleader and composer Cole Schmidt’s soloing—especially on “Sam and Sara”—suggests that he’s equally fond of prog- and avant-rock styles. His suitelike compositions also suggest an affinity with Chicago postrockers Tortoise, but they’re more overtly emotional and less calculatedly polyrhythmic.
Schmidt’s tunes sound especially warm and luscious when heard on vinyl, but be warned: my copy was labelled number 26 of 50. Act now and avoid the digital curse.