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The New Cool: Negative Press Project Visits Seattle

Clayton Lancaster
Oakland's Negative Press Project. "I know that new song is in here somewhere..."

The Oakland based Negative Press Project are built from a variety of musical talents, some from the California Jazz Conservatory, but others employing skills honed in the realms of pop, rock, global folk and classical music. Together, the octet delivers a "jazz adjacent" sound that allows for countless creative possibilities. NPP will be exploring some of those possibilities at Cafe Racer in Seattle Sunday night, with the Racer Sessions jam following.

Co-led by pianist Ruthie Dineen and bassist Andrew Lion, NPP's first release Seeevileyes - Civilizewas comprised of original music celebrating personal moments and reflecting on life and the world around us. The group in 2015 produced cool modern post-jazz with smart pop songcraft, shining playing from individuals and ensembles within the band.

Last year's sophomore release was the tribute Eternal Life: Jeff Buckley Songs and Sounds, dedicated to the late artist who produced one massively influential album, Grace, in 1994. Buckley's short career highlighted a formative period for both Dineen and Lion, his music was an inspiration for a one-off performance that developed into a full album with original tunes written as album "bookends".

Negative Press Project's arrival in Seattle this month coincides with their latest tribute effort, a cover of "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" by the rock band Queens of the Stone Age. From their breakout album Rated R in 2000, Lion remembers the band's music as a soundtrack to post-911 American military actions in the middle east. He points to our current divided political climate as a good opportunity to revisit the song.

I must admit I'm just barely familiar with the original song, but the NPP cover is a knockout. Bass, piano and drums set the tempo, horns reveal the musical theme, then the band passes around a couple solos. Lyle Link's sax first, then an electric guitar solo from Luis Salcedo that builds to a rocking climax. I quickly found the QOTSA version to compare and.... I prefer the Negative Press Project. Tune in to The New Cool Saturday to hear for yourself!

Keep your ears open for more original material from NPP. A prolific period of composing will result in their new album Within, due in the Spring. Lion tells me the musical themes include "the wind in one's hair...the moment that somebody conveniently finds spirituality in the face of statistically uneventful moments when one's mortality feels threatened...." and other inspirations of the 21st Century. The music will be accompanied by conceptual and performance videos produced by the band.

The Negative Press Project has close connections with Seattle's improvised music scene, including saxophonists Levi Gillis (of Hunter Gather, etc) and Ivan Arteaga (Wayne Horvitz, etc) who will join NPP for Sunday's show. Big thanks to their Table & Chairs improvisational collective and Racer Sessions performances for drawing the likes of Negative Press Project to Seattle. Now go check 'em out!

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5p, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.