Hellbent: George Schuller & The Schulldogs
George Schuller – composer, drums, shakers, whistles and bells
Tim Berne – alto saxophone
Tony Malaby – tenor saxophone
Ed Schuller – bass
1. Pumpkins
2. The Thaw
3. Ripe
4. Distant Cousin
5. Slightly Round
6. Band Vote
Sometimes the raw, spontaneous, interpretive abilities of an all-star cast of top improvisers mixes just right with the compositions at hand to create an unforgettable night of music. Hellbent captures just such a night on November 13th, 2000, when George Schuller's group The Schulldogs rolled into Albuquerque, New Mexico for a show at The Outpost. That night Tim Berne, Tony Malaby and Ed Schuller joined the group's leader in stretching, pulling, and dramatically exploring his compositions with a creative urgency seldom captured on the precarious live recording format. Whereas the group's 1999 studio debut Tenor Tantrums (New World) relied heavily on the original compositions, this live deconstruction and reinvention of the original material shows the true breadth of this group's creative abilities and Schuller's range as a leader.
The fact that this disc was recorded live helps keep the music accessible, balancing the energy so it doesn't fluctuate. Overall, this disc has much to offer the fan of modern jazz and creative improvisation.
— Richton Guy Thomas, All About Jazz
...fans of post-modern ensemble sounds and mostly tonal improvisation should find lots to enjoy.
— James Beaudreau, Signal to Noise
...a rollicking display of high-spirited interplay in a program of prvocative originals by dummer George Schuller. Hot stuff indeed.
— Stuart Kremsky, IAJRC Journal
The ideas are fresh (and many of the notes, "bent"), the energy contagious, and many of the more subtle exchanges between the drummer and his three collaborators (particularly with bassist Ed Schuller) simply beautiful.
— Sound Tracks, NewMusicBox
...an intuitive, spontaneous romp. Fun to play and fun to listen.
— Nils Jacobson, All About Jazz
Think: David Murray, the World Saxophone Quartet, and, later, Dave Holland's small groups, with their tricky horn counterpoint over shifting, roiling grooves. Texture, tempo, meter, and melodies are always shifting, so that each of the six pieces on this 71-minute CD sustains interest for its duration. Schuller knows how to use composition to spur improvisation, and as a way to organize free blowing so that it never sounds arbitrary.
— Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix
More than a tour souvenir, Hellbent is a rhythmically exciting listening experience. Plus it's the sort of calling card for this band that will make many audiences wish they could replicate the New Mexicans' sonic adventures.
— Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly
George Schuller and his Schulldogs show how to make a free-jazz album that will seem coherent to the average fan. His compositions are provocative, but the emphasis is on extended improvisation. The solos are often long, but they're so well structured that it seems the soloists are reading the notes off of paper. Ed and George not only provide varied and imaginative backing for the saxmen, they sometimes engage in dialogue with them on this outstandingly coherent release.
— Harvey Pekar, Boston Herald
Recorded live at a New Mexico venue, drummer George Schuller leads the charge through a set featuring two of the top improvising saxophonists in modern jazz. The musicians pursue introspective dialogue while also gravitating towards intensely acrobatic exchanges and heated flurries.
— Glenn Astarita, All Music Guide
...the real excitement here is that Hellbent gives you a chance to hear Tim Berne, one of the best known and most widely recorded voices to emerge in jazz in the 80's, together with Tony Malaby, one of the most exciting voices to emerge in jazz since the turn of the century. All these musicians are so strong, I found myself listening as if there were two bands here, the rhythm section on the one hand and the two horns on the other. Hellbent is a strong record, and for those who admire (as I do) Berne's work on his Screwgun label, you will want to seek this out.
— Philip McNally, Cadence
Tim Berne and Tony Malaby are absolutely electric, a two man squall, spinning maze after maze on their own or in adventuresome counterpoint. The Schullers are rough and aggressive and terrifically dynamic, an ideal rhythm pair for this ride. Ed is a bassist who demands spirited interplay; George is a bristling kind of leader, compulsively punching out figures.
— Greg Buium, DownBeat
A free-bop foursome if ever there was one...this unit has plenty of thrills and spills in store for this rollicking roller-coaster ride. A most welcome follow-up to the group's 1995 debut release Tenor Tantrums on New World Records.
— Marc Chénard, Coda