On a list of albums up for review for Bearded Gentlemen Music, the name “Flash Pig” happened to catch my eye. I saw that it was listed as “jazz,” and I headed to the iTunes store to preview a few tracks before I made a commitment to writing it up.
Performing a Google search on “Flash Pig” brings you some interesting results. You see cartoons of a pig dressed up as the comic book character The Flash; also, you see a big shaped USB “flash drive.”
However, the band Flash Pig is neither of those things.
Spread across ten tracks, the group manages to cram a number of different jazz styles, influences, and sounds into the effort—it can be smooth, somber, and slightly whimsical or fun, and even cacophonic—occasionally all on the same song, like the stellar opening track, “For B,” which begins with some slightly melancholic piano key plunking before it segues into a grand, sweeping saxophone arrangement, before it leads you into the chaotic yet well oiled “6444.”
Following that energetic double shot, the quartet slows things down with the melancholic, slow burning “Temps.”
As Flash Pig heads near its halfway point, it also reaches its smoothest with the free-wheeling “Octobre,” which at times is slightly reminiscent of some of Kamasi Washington’s arranging, but it never quite gets as dense on the ears.
That is one of the big selling points of this record—its accessibility to a casual listen. Jazz, as a genre, is a tough one to crack. Where do you start? Do you start with names you recognize—like Miles Davis or John Coltrane? Do you get into “free jazz” and lose your mind in experimentalism? Flash Pig, while certainly a very contemporary release, is doing its best to keep a genre alive and well, and it does so by providing concise, listenable pieces that rarely dabble in self-indulgent tendencies or fits of dissonance.
Flash Pig continues this formula for success in the album’s second half.
Flash Pig concludes with the reserved and reflective sounds of “Enuf”—a quiet, near post-lude that ditches the fun and “light” feeling a bulk of the album has, favoring instead an evocative and bittersweet pensive sensation.
For those seeking an accessible way into the genre, but are at a loss with where to begin, Flash Pig may be just what you need. Lean enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome or test your patience, it provides a minor insight into the landscape of “modern” or contemporary jazz music that will, hopefully, allow a casual listener to want to dive into the breadth of the genre even more.
Kevin Krein is a Minnesota based writer, and has been operating the award winning music blog Anhedonic Headphones since January 2013. For nearly as long, he has been an occasional contributor to Bearded Gentlemen Music. From December 2013 until its the summer of 2017, he wrote “The Bearded Life” column for the Southern Minn Scene magazine, and from the summer of 2017, until the fall of 2018, wrote “The Column of Disquiet” for The Next Ten Words. His writing also regularly appears in The Wagazine and in River Valley Woman. At the beginning of 2019, he launched the all new Anhedonic Headphones podcast, which you may subscribe to in such legitimate outlets as iTunes and Google Play.
He is a vegan, a friend to all animals, and a huge jerk toward most people.