When a shark dies, it stops swimming and falls to the ocean floor. Shark Funeral Songbook is a soundtrack for the dying shark and its surroundings, according to veteran scenester and Rutgers music prof Mike Noordzy, who has merged his El Noordzo outfit with experimental electronic rock band Triangulus to form Noordzo.
The resulting fusion of psychedelic surf-rock, out jazz and underwater soundscapes was recorded in a haunted century-old schoolhouse in rural PA with nods to ’70s experimental jazz master Don Cherry, alt-rock pioneers The Velvet Underground and “Blue Velvet” auteur David Lynch. Oceanic invertebrates also should get credit for inspiration because at times Noordzo slithers and floats along like a band of jammin’ jellyfish.
The high point of this truly artistic and fascinating 10-song, 54-minute collection is the seven-minute ambient, Lynch-inspired jazz funeral of “Upper Centralia.” The other-worldly tune sounds like a cross between a scene from “Blue Velvet” and those jammin’ jellyfish leading the shark’s funeral procession somewhere between the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. “Lower Centralia” picks up where that track leaves off with a mix of saxes and synths that create whale song, which is broken up by a gnarly guitar solo by El Noordzo’s Chris Welcome.
The bizarrely romantic “Donna” also is a treat, especially the sweet but subtle swing and snort of Jonathan Moritz’s soprano saxophone solo. Alto saxophonist Anthony Ware also steps up on “Tituba’s Garden Party” with an out moment reminiscent of Ornette Coleman or Pharoah Sanders. The piles of percussion by Michael Winnicki, Greg Riss, Turner Matthews, David Freeman and Welcome also help make Songbook great.
I give Noordzo so much credit not only for having the guts to make this challenging, artistic music but also to convince the increasingly corporate Convention Hall that it would make an appealing Sunday soundtrack all summer at The Anchor’s Bend. The band will be there for free shows from 4 to 7 p.m., every week from June 18 to Aug. 27.
It’s a shame that music this good has to be given away these disposable days, but Shark Funeral Songbook is a free download on Bandcamp. Maybe there’ll be a tip jar at the Anchor’s Bend and on June 3 when Noordzo play the House of Good Fortune in the Somerset section of Franklin.
Bob Makin is the reporter at mycentraljersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor and still a contributor to The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.