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Music Review: Gypsy Schaeffer – New Album

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Playing their brand of no-holds-barred, inventive jazz, Gypsy Schaeffer explores the art of music-making with the exuberance of a keyed-up two-year-old. The quartet is comprised of trombonist Joel Yennior, drummer Chris Punis, bassist Jef Charland, and sax player Andy Voelker. All four musicians compose, too, making their third album a real treat.

The record, titled fittingly New Album, features a collection of tunes that explore the outer and inner reaches of the jazz cosmos. Sometimes funky, sometimes dark, and always compelling, Gypsy Schaeffer’s tunes have a natural quality that springs forth from pure musicianship.

Gypsy Schaeffer came into being as the result of Punis assembling a group to perform at the Cambridge Brewing Company in Massachusetts. Punis and Voekler had been classmates in music college and the rest of the band had played together in various incarnations, so the group slid together seamlessly to play at the Sunday Jazz Brunch event. While it is not known whether waffles were served, it is known that Gypsy Schaeffer began their road to glory due to those performances.

By May 2003, the quartet had turned a marathon recording session into a first album. They also started their own label, PeaceTime Records, and began working to promote the record. Fast forward to March of 2009 and Gypsy Schaeffer’s third record is ready to roll.

New Album features the band continuing their journey and keeping their philosophy of openly exploring the creative process well intact.

The record gives equal time to every instrumentalist. There is no glitzy showmanship or excess. Instead, Gypsy Schaeffer’s pieces resemble classic, traditional arrangements. Equal parts unrestricted creativity and firm structure, the band’s compositions swing and sway with the best of them.

The lively melody of “New Egypt” starts the record off with a bang. The track was actually written years ago by Voelker, but it stands as a current tune. Punis’ drum solo is marvelous.

“Live a Little” sparkles with classic film noir quality, drawing the listener in with brilliant mood and instrumental storytelling. Listen as each band member makes a superb but subtle entry, deepening the tone splendidly.

Mood is also the order of the day with “Double Quartet.” Interestingly, this piece was recorded as two improv sessions layered on top of one another. The ingenuity showcases the band’s lack of respect for “the rules.” “The Greater Good” continues the band’s improvisational force, creating a daring and boundless vibe with its sax and trombone interaction.

Gypsy Schaeffer’s New Album feels like a tour through the world of jazz. It’s adventurous, pleasurable music. The band toys with drum-led tunes (“Call to Arms”) and haunting trombone exits (“Exuberant Irrationalism”), giving the listener something bright with each cut. With equal parts taut composition and enlivening improv, this quartet’s third record is an exciting and fresh entry in modern jazz.

You can purchase New Album on the band's website and check out Portamental from Amazon.

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