St. Dirt Elementary School Hangin' Out With the Kid Who'd Eat Anything for a Dollar

St. Dirt Elementary School is a self-described "junkyard” jazz band with many points of reference. At heart, St. Dirt is a messed-up New Orleans hot jazz band. The sensibility is pre-bop, with woodblocks, clarinets, upper register wind/reed combos, and lots of collective improv. From there, St. Dirt apply more contemporary notions. There's a heavy pre-‘60s Sun Ra feel to Tania Gill's keyboards, extremely accomplished collective sax skronking by Kai Koschmider and Evan Shaw, and melodies that wouldn't sound out of place on a Tom Waits record. Leader and lap steel player Myk Freedman shows extraordinary skill in marshalling an unusual instrumental array into vivid tonal colours. Another key abstractor is Ryan Driver, whose kazoo-like thumb reeds can bolster the reed section or whose analog synth lines ("North York Folk Music") can complement the clarinet. Drummer Jake Oelrichs' manic presence gives everyone more energy — he’s liable to drop a Sunny Murray-like blast of cymbals when things threaten to get too complacent. While the melodies can be heavy on the whimsy/drunken singalong factor, some of them are extremely hummable and will stay in your head for days. One of the great albums of the year, and a very fun band to see live if you can. (Oval Window)