STEUART LIEBIG/THE MENTONES:
Here we get a muddish meld of blues, experimental, and maybe rock/R&B for good measure. The interplay of instruments and sounds makes this a solid project. The harmonica sounds are a highlight. These guys are all talented artists and here they jam and groove through moods dark
and somewhat light.
I liked the feel and sounds of sax and harmonica but it is all good and all interesting. Recommended.
(A Canales, The Critical Review Service)
Liebig plays contrabass guitar and wrote the music. The Mentones (Tony Atherton, Bill Barrett and Joseph Berardi) flesh out these compositions in the most visceral and exciting way possible.
The result is one of the most invigorating avant garde jazz albums I've heard in a while. Liebig has long impressed me with his willingness to try out new ideas, and the works here are no exception. Still, it is the performance of the band (Liebig included) that really blows me away.
These guys play together. Long-time Primus fans might remember the chaos of those early Caroline albums, when Les Claypool and guitarist Larry LaLonde attacked each other with a fury and still managed to play on the same page. That competitive, yet collaborative, dynamic faded as the band scored success, but I've always loved it. These guys have the same feel. They know what the others will be doing, and they push each other to the edge.
Always moving, always finding new ways to create sounds, the players have created an album that never stops. I wish it would never end, but the laws of physics don't allow such a thing. I guess I'll have to live with that.
(Jon Worley, Aiding and Abetting)
Bar-band rock crossed with twisty prog/jazz writing. Deliciously blazing and bluesy, even.
Definite rock energy here; a particular treat is the harmonica, played in a hybrid of blues and free jazz to give the session that dusty backroads-bar sound. Strong beats, mid/fast tempos, loud rock blaring (even though it's sax and harmonica leading the melody), twisty odd time signatures, and some wild-ass solos (1, 12). Liebig fuzzes out his bass for some guitar-hero antics here and there. Loads of instrumental fun; play it all. FCC clean.
1- Mid/fast with some crazy harmonica; 6/8 time
2- Rockin' bass intro, into driving midtempo rock
3- Rolling, *very* vaguely Indian feel under boppin' sax. Mid/fast.
4- Funky but in odd time (10/8?), kinda prog/blues/rock. Cool!
5- Fast; tricky pinpoint dancing feel. Still rocks, though.
6- Slow, spare, disjoint
7- Slowish, w/blazing gut-punching sax solo
8- Halting, Eastern-meditation feel, in a brash way
9- Slowish country loping
10- Mid/fast, very strong beat
11- Midtempo "crime jazz," fun and bouncy
12- Strong bluesy feel, mid/fast and loud, *crazy* soloing
13- Short free-jazzy statement, energetic
(Craig Matsumoto, zookeeper.stanford.edu)
This newly released effort gives a bit more credence to Southern California's upbeat modern jazz scenario, where almost anything is likely to take place. Perhaps the nouveau West Coast slant parallels New York City's infamous downtown scene. Otherwise, bassist Stuart Liebig and multifaceted harmonica performer Bill Barrett have been in the trenches for years via numerous jazz-related projects. Whether embarking upon electronics-based jazz improvisation, chamber-jazz, or jazz-fusion, Liebig adds another chapter to the imaginary book with this stirring, genre-hopping band.
The odd element resides within Barrett's soloing and harmonizing with alto saxophonist Tony Atherton. Unconventional for sure, but it works rather seamlessly as the band's gutsy, in-the-pocket based methodology packs a massive punch! Lieibig's nimble but forceful electric bass lines generate the pumping grooves amid drummer Joseph Beradi's hammering backbeats. Essentially, the quartet fuses gritty blues-rock, surf-rock, and scorching modern jazz licks with various modal concepts. Ultimately, they kick matters into overdrive along with rebel rousing maneuvers while also implementing capacious passages. In other areas, the musicians delve into free-form dialogues, along with blitzing solo spots to complement a horde of punchy sax and harmonica choruses. Pleasantly in-your-face, this endeavor looms as an irrefutable standout for 2006. (Zealously recommended…)
(Glenn Astarita, jazzreview.com)
The Mentones' second album is not badder or meaner than the first,
but it is better balanced. The group has grown out of its "Hey, we're
an avant-jazz quartet with a harmonica player, look what we can do!"
phase, paving the way for more consistent compositions from leader
Steuart Liebig and a wider sound palette. This time around, the
listener is treated to wonderful sonic extremes. Take tracks 5 and 6,
for instance: "The Single-Double Two-Step" is a hard-punching,
fast-paced punk-jazz number, followed by the much more sedated"Coal," which sounds more like post-Stockhausen contemporary
classical on jazz instruments. Liebig's blues-jazz-rock fusion works
surprisingly well. Tony Atherton's alto sax and Bill Barrett's
chromatic harmonica share the lead melodies (often doubling each
other), while Liebig's electric contrabass adds grit to the bottom
end. Drummer Joseph Berardi waltzes through all the complex time
shifts and knows how to really push the band in riff-driven tunes like "Manchild Hustle" and "Hardcase." The punkish attitude brings to
mind The Nels Cline Singers (incidentally, Cline penned down the
liner notes), while the more challenging tracks evoke
avant-progressive bands like Ahleuchatistas and Forever Einstein
- - with a harmonica, of course! Barrett's presence accounts for a lot
of the band's uniqueness, something largely justified by his
virtuosity. And unlike what you may think of it on paper, he
rocks, and so does the rest of the band, making for quite an
(François Couture, allmusic.com)
Second album by Liebig's quartet that infuses blues-rock with some wild free-jazz ideas. The result really does rock, and the use of chromatic harmonica (played at dizzying speeds by Bill Barrett) as a lead voice gives the whole thing a dusty-road, back-bar kind of feel. Lots of odd time signatures and high volumes. Very cool, fun stuff.
(KZSU, 90.1 FM)
It goes without saying that where and when you listen to an album determines to some considerable extent how you react to it. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge (southwards) in a convertible 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider with Steely Dan's "Glamour Profession" at high volume has to be one of the greatest experiences known to man, only topped – or bottomed – by listening to Joy Division's Closer waiting for a grimy suburban train on platform three at Manchester Oxford Road station on a rainy late November afternoon. But I can't think of a place less appropriate for the music of Steuart Liebig and the Mentones than the Second Empire gilt, stucco and wood panelling of Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon, Paris, which is where I happen to be at the moment. I can't help thinking this would be better in some sleazy motel out of a late 70s Tom Waits song, driving dangerous curves across a dirty sheet, but even so this sequel to 2004's Locustland is still sounding pretty good. Though I've been a sucker for Bill Barrett's dirty chromatic harmonica and Tony Atherton's sweaty alto ever since I popped Locustland into the machine. That Liebig / Berardi rhythm team cooks too. As well as finding the perfect listening place, I'll bet Nowhere Calling would also go better with a fifth of bourbon and a packet of smokes – but as you can't smoke anywhere in the state of California, apparently (unless you happen to be Arnold Schwarzenegger), you'll just have to get into your car and drive across the desert to the Nevada stateline. This will be great music for the trip.
(Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic)
STEUART LIEBIG, ansonsten gern leicht okkult, merkurial oder kalifornisch
esoterisch angehaucht, zeigt sich mit THE MENTONES erdverbunden.
Nowhere Calling (pfMENTUM CD 039) ist schon der zweite Ausflug in R‘n‘BGefilde im Quartett mit dem Altosaxophonisten Tony Atherton, Joseph Berardi an den Drums und dem Mundharmonicavirtuosen Bill Barrett als Garanten für echte Blue Notes. Anders freilich als etwa Elliott Sharp, der bei seinem Terraplane-Blues knietief in die Sümpfe eines außerirdischen Mississippideltas watet, schwingt bei den Mentones eine postmoderne Leichtigkeit und Quecksilbrigkeit das Zepter. Nur Liebigs Kontrabassgitarre pflügt die unteren Regionen, Alto und Harmonika steigen ins Himmelsblau, das sie mit Melodien mustern, die Blues, wie schon Ornette Coleman, als etwas Heiteres und Vogelfreies neu erfinden. Das spielerische Element ist bei Berardi in besten Händen, dem einstigen Fibonacci- & Non Credo-Trommler mit dem markanten Unterlippenbärtchen, der schon mit Double Naught Spy Car ganz retro-gewieft Surf- & Spy-B-Movie-Instrumentals à la Vril und Thurston Lava Tube spielte. Liebig treibt den Spaß nicht ganz so weit. Mit der Raffinesse und Komplexität seiner Arrangements setzt er R‘n‘B in die zweite Potenz, möglichst klischeearm und dennoch möglichst unterhaltsam. Wo andere einen vertrauten Riff wählen, spielen The Mentones, in denen das Mentale den Machismo überwiegt, lieber eine gezackte Wendung, etwas in Jazzrockmanier Elaboriertes mit Pferdeschwanz. George Cartwright und Curlew kommen mir in den Sinn und stoßen dort auf Pago Libre. Soli an der kurzen Leine und die oft parallel geführten Bläserstimmen geben den 13, überwiegend nur 2- bis 4-minütigen Tracks einigen und ‚Rooster Rocket‘ sogar ganz gehörigen Drive.
Das verträumte ‚Coal‘ und ‚Back Seat, White Cadillac‘ streunen dagegen
umher wie ein Hund, der weder Eile noch ein Ziel zu haben scheint, und
‚Angel City Dust‘ walzt im 3/4-Takt mit dem richtigen Tempo für die einstigen
Fans der Del-Tones und Royaltones. Von mir aus könnte der Hund noch öfter sein Bein heben.
(Rigo Dittman, Bad Alchemy)
[STEUART LIEBIG, otherwise gladly easily occult, mercurial or Californian esoteric angehaucht, shows up earthconnected with THE of MENTONES. Nowhere Calling (pfMENTUM CD 039) is already the second trip in R'n'BGefilde in the quartet with the Altosaxophonist Tony Atherton, Joseph Berardi at the drums and the chromatic harmonica virtuoso Bill Barrett as guarantors for genuine Blue Notes. Differently certainly than for instance Elliott Sharp, which wades with its Terraplane Blues kneel low into the sumps of an extraterrestial Mississippi Deltas, swings with the Mentones a postmodernism ease and Quecksilbrigkeit the Zepter. Only Liebig’s retort bass guitar plows the lower regions, Alto and harmonica rise in sky-blue, which they examine with melodies, the Blues, like already Ornette Coleman, when something cheerful and bird-free invent again. The spielerische element is with Berardi in best hands, the former Fibonacci and Non Credo-drummer with the salient Unterlippenbaertchen, which already retro gewieft completely with double Naught Spy Car Surf & Spy b Movie Instrumentals à la Vril and Thurston lava tube played. Liebig does not drive the fun completely so far. With the Raffinesse and complexity of its arrangements he sets R'n'B into the second power, as plate-poor and nevertheless if possible as possible for maintenance SAM. Where others select familiar reef, The Mentones, in which the mental outweighs the Machismo, play rather a serrated idiom, something in jazz skirt manners Elaboriertes with horse tail. George Cartwright and Curlew come me into the sense and discover there Pago Libre. Soli at the short line and the often parallel led Blaeserstimmen give to the 13, predominantly only 2 to 4-minuetigen TRACK unite and ' Rooster Rocket ' even completely due drive. The dreamed ' Coal ' and 'Back Seat, White Cadillac ' streunen against it around like a dog, which seems to have neither hurry still another goal, and ' Angel City Dust ' in the 3/4-clock with the correct speed for the former fans the Del clay/tone and. From me the dog could lift its leg still more frequently.]
This is master-bassist Steuart Liebig's dozenth disc as a leader, his fourth on pfMentum and second with the Mentones. The Mentones have their own sound, what with an alto sax and chromatic harmonica frontline. Their music is fun, it boogies somewhat. On "Chatterbox" Steuart's electric contrabass guitar is blistering when the tune begins. That alto sax and chromatic harp make a unique combination and play well together. Both are also strong soloists and get a good chance to take inspired solos throughout this dynamite disc. Steuart writes memorable tunes that stay with you long after the disc is over. What is also interesting is that these dudes rock or boogie hard without bring too obvious or silly. Intelligent dance music? Perhaps. This is just one of Steuart's numerous great bands, but this is the one that you would have play at your party that would delight the babes and the more demanding male progressive music fans. It is rare that music this good is also fun, but that is just what this is. Got me?
BLG (DMG Newsletter)
Take the whimsical/daffy, twisting/pointed compositional acumen and inspired ensemble work of Fripp’s first three mobile intelligent units; the lean, mean, energetic-but-streamlined amphetamine rush of Naked City; the dazzling chops of the Univers Zero boys; and the cool-cat-from-Squaresville melodic tune-smithing of Henry “Peter Gunn/Moon River” Mancini. Liebig’s Mentones have a somewhat unusual lineup for a combo so directly winning: Liebig’s rippling, often guitar-like electric contrabass, Tony Atherton’s full-bodied, dramatic alto sax, Joseph Berardi’s supersonic, he-got-that-beat drums, and the surging, multifaceted harmonica of Bill Barrett. Sure, easy/mellow listening this isn’t, but neither is it arduous or artily “difficult.” Liebig’s foursome often sounds like a band two or three times its size, possessed of the invigorating economy of the Raybeats or Dick Dale at their respective peak(s). Nowhere is real . . . real gone!
Mark Keresman (Signal to Noise, Fall 2006)
The personal footprint that Steuart Liebig and The Mentones leave in the brand of avantgarde Jazz they create places them as artists who are clearly moved by the more personal side of their ideas. Spontaneous, yet with a well shaped structure, their music attracts the attention of the listeners from the first to the last track in the album.
Mainstay L.A. underground bassist/composer Steuart Liebig blends raw rock-funk feels, Ornette-ish blowing, and post-modern chamber music to dizzying effect, via his quirky quartet (fretted and fretless Fodera 6-strings, drums, alto sax, and harmonica). Among the warped sonic delights: the cowboy gait of “Angel City Dust,” the downtown-ish “Daisy Man,” and Liebig’s disc-stopping fuzz solos on “Chatterbox” and “Iodine Cream.”
Chris Jisi (Bass Player Magazine)
There are trend followers and unrepentant free birds. There are also free birds who feel it's their duty to teach us, poor daily jobbers, the necessary techniques to learn to fly, at least in our mind. Steuart Liebig's Mentones (Tony Atherton on alto saxophone, Bill Barrett on chromatic harmonica, Joseph Berardi on drums and percussion and the leader on contrabass guitar) are bad muthas that will seduce your joints into crackling out some dancing life while stealing your girlfriend with a quirky smile. "Nowhere Calling" is a fine 13-piece collection of angular onslaughts, cynical delicacy and concentrated, yet accessible difficulties that rank right there with the best unclassifiable American bands (think Curlew and Motor Totemist Guild with just a few more pinches of rock 'n blues rudiments). Most of these tracks impose a predominant groove, often quite dissonant, over which Atherton and Barrett go for the jugular with unison counter-themes and scarcely predictable sadistic contrapuntal turns.
Barrett, in particular, is probably the most complete harmonicist on the market today, able to offer low-budget Delta abstractions and Allan Holdsworth-like lyrical contrivances in the space of thirty seconds. Yet, Mentones' real strength is their ensemble narrative: picture some sort of fusion group from the 70s undergoing an electroshock lifting that turns the band members into reactivated-brain orchestral engineers. Play loud.
(Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes)
If you want to read my notes on this album, click here.