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Iron Kim Style  
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Iron Kim Style is an explosive Seattle-based jazz-rock improv quintet -- featuring Moraine's Dennis Rea (6-string electric guitar) and Jay Jaskot (drums), alongside Bill Jones (trumpet), Thaddaeus Brophy (12-string electric guitar), and Ryan Berg (electric bass). Drawing on influences as diverse as Olivier Messiaen, electric-period Miles Davis, Terje Rypdal, John Abercrombie, heavy rock, and North Korean martial music, Iron Kim Style conjures spontaneous sonic epics encompassing stomping grooves, to grinding noise, to passages of eerie beauty.The quintet has no purist axes to grind here but gleefully blends structure and abstraction, lyrical melodies and scalding noise, wicked funk and weightless balladry, as well as a generous helping of jazz phrasing and bracing experimentalism, into a rich and meaty sonic stew. The resulting music frequently sounds as if it were composed, due to the finely-tuned, sensitive listening skills of the participants (after many years of collective music-making).This titled debut CD is a totally improvised outing whose intuitive, cerebral communicatrions stand in stark contrast to most specimens of the free-improv genre. There is a great vibe to this intellectually-enticing set. Indeed, this is some seriously good music.
TRACKSClick on any highlighted track title to listen to individual audio samples, or listen to them all on the player to the right.
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10. Slouchin' at the Savoy (2:25)
DENNIS REA: 6-string electric guitar
THADDAEUS BROPHY: 12-string electric guitar
BILL JONES: trumpet
RYAN BERG: bass guitar
IZAAK MILLS: bass clarinet (on Tracks 1 & 5)
Mixed and engineered by Doug Haire, at Jack Straw Studios, in Seattle, WA.
Mastered by Barry Corliss, at Master Works, in Seattle, WA.
Produced by Iron Kim Style.
All music freely improvised by Iron Kim Style.
©2010 Iron Kim Style. All rights reserved.
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"... one of the most original and interesting jazz-fusion (or rather jazz rock-related) creations I’ve heard this year."

-Vitaly Menshikov, Progressor

"In spite of the totally impromptu nature of the album (recorded over just two sessions), the feeling of looseness that I have often mentioned does not imply a lack of coordination between the instruments, which in fact sound uncannily in synch with each other – something that comes from having played together for a long time.

"Definitely one of the most interesting releases of the year (2010) so far."

-Rafaella Berry, Progressor

"... You begin right in the middle of frantic tumult on the 'Mean Streets of Pyongyang', ten spacious minutes that leap and bounce through wild-eyed echoes of Miles Davis' electric fusion explorations, with trumpet blasts that struggle in between chaotic guitars and drums which burn to tear the whole town down. This dissolves into the spasmodic guitar funk "Gibberish Falter," which sets the stage for 'Po' Brief', an electric guitar trio improvisation called to full stop by the closing clarion trumpet.

"'Adrift' shifts the improvisational architecture from electric Miles to Discipline-era King Crimson; guitar harmonics frame its opening, releasing bass clarinet and trumpet, and then gradually darken its sheltering sky. These same guitars chime like bells and groan like monsters washing over 'Amber Waves of Migraine.'

"... a challenging, complex, and ultimately rewarding listen ..."

-Chris M. Slawecki, All About Jazz

"From the grunge hub and martial position, a tight but loose grip of a different, jazzy kind.

"With Kim Il-sung on the cover and the portrait of Kim Jong-il inside, one would be forgiven for thinking there's some heavy thunder in between but no, a new venture for the MORAINE leader Dennis Rea, as famous for his guitar wizardry as for expertise in modern Chinese music, possesses too many nuances to feel moulden as metal. The opening salvo of Jay Jaskot's drums and Ryan Berg's bass throws a listener into the purely improvised swirl of "Mean Streets Of Pyongyang", although Bill Jones' trumpet and the leader's funky licks give the jive a Cuban rather than Korean feel which is supposedly the name of the game with no rules. It's the unpredictability of the ultimately urban - with cars' signals, trains' chug and radio modulations - adventure that makes this record a riveting drive.

"And the humor, too: the fervent "Jack Out The Kims" bubbles in fine fashion as any great punk jam should, where everyone pushes for space, while the tranquil "Dreams From Our Dear Leader" plays out the dictatorship card in reverse - quietly. And if the central part of the journey, from "Don Quixotic" to "Amber Waves Of Migraine", float serenely too, on the fusion six-string waves with brass lightnings on the horizon and low-range hints on storm to come, while "Po' Brief" offers a serious avant-garde tangle of numerous instrumental threads that somehow cohere into a racy whole with Rea's luquid runs calling the shots. The bellicose nature of it all drive is dictated by the fact there is one more Kim, a master of martial arts, but with such a velvet glove over the album's fist, this is a battle to join time after time."


-Dmitry M. Epstein, dmme.net (Israel)

"On Iron Kim Style, guitarist Dennis Rea has created a CD of entirely improvised music, set against themes mostly about North Korea and it's nefarious ruler, Kim Jong-Il. Rea might not have possibly foreseen just how much the tension between North and South Korea would escalate as it has in recent times. The art work on the outside of the CD portrays a very militant landscape of North Korea, with a perfectly scaled photo of Kim Jong-Il inserted into the band photo inside the CD. With Kim's son sitting in the wings to take power in the next several years, this release may serve as a future requiem to its comically dark protagonist. Instrumental political music—jazz or otherwise—usually asks, with subtlety, for an active, empathetic connection between the stated titled themes and the music within, so that a story can be told in emotional aural colors rather than lyrical words.

"In the band, also named Iron Kim Style, Rea leads the proceedings with standout guitar chords that the other players follow. There appears to be an obvious and inescapable Miles Davis/Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) jazz-rock fusion era feel; using the Bitches Brew template is not new in itself, but understanding this as a baseline makes it somewhat easier to appreciate the newer vocabulary applied to the surface of Iron Kim Style's music. Davis' tone is heard in Bill Jones' trumpet on 'Mean Streets of Pyongyang', as much as Bennie Maupin can be heard in in Izaak Mills' bass clarinet.

"It is the rock part of Rea that appears to provide this improvised music with enough form to keep it very interesting. That said, the music still comes off much looser than Rea's other fusion band, the very compositional Moraine, with songs like 'Don Quixote' and 'Dreams of Our Leader' almost possessing the slow, moodily produced quality of an ECM recording. In contrast, 'Jack out the Kims' goes for a raw, restless blast that brings out duel guitar shredding, with twelve-string guitar accomplice Thaddaeus Brophy in full force.

"Iron Kim Style provides evidence that the Seattle music scene remains as vibrant as ever. The next television news special you see on about the tenuous North Korean situation, sit back, hit the mute button on the TV, and turn up this recording; let it be your soundtrack."

-Mark Redlefsen, All About Jazz


Iron Kim Style was founded in the early 2000s by bassist Ryan Berg, who recruited four like-minded veterans of various bands he had played in over the years. Berg’s musical partnership with guitarist Dennis Rea goes back to the early ‘90s in Taiwan, where the two played together in a number of pioneering progressive bands, and continued in the Seattle-based art-rock group Axolotl with drummer Jay Jaskot and guitarist Bill Horist. Berg, Jaskot, and guitarist Thaddaeus Brophy first collaborated in the Seattle improv trio State, and Berg and Jaskot went on to work together in the acid-funk juggernaut HighRize with future Iron Kim Style trumpet player Bill Jones. A unique concatenation of quicksilver melodies, jagged shards, volcanic crescendos, and hurtling polyrhythms, Iron Kim Style serves as an ideal vehicle for the simpatico quintet’s more unfettered energies.

Dennis Rea's adventurous guitar playing blends modern jazz, creative rock, experimental music, and world musical traditions into an approach that is uniquely his own. Over the years Dennis — also heard with his band Moraine (including Iron Kim Style drummer Jay Jaskot) on the MoonJune Records release manifest deNsity — has led or been a key contributor to numerous innovative groups including Land, Stackpole, Axolotl, Savant, Earthstar, Identity Crisis, Chekov, and Ting Bu Dong. He has performed or recorded with such prominent creative musicians as Han Bennink, Hector Zazou, Klaus Schulze, Stuart Dempster, and godfather of Chinese rock Cui Jian, as well as members of King Crimson, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Ministry, and the Sun Ra Arkestra. He has collaborated with many of the most important figures in contemporary Chinese music and was one of the first Western musicians to record an album for the state-owned China Record Company. His activities have included film, theater, radio, and modern dance, and he has appeared on nearly 30 recordings to date. He is also an accomplished author whose most recent work is the book Live at the Forbidden City: Musical Encounters in China and Taiwan, a portrait of the emerging Chinese rock and jazz scenes and a chronicle of his musical adventures in the Far East. His forthcoming CD Views from Chicheng Precipice, a radical reimagining of East Asian traditional music, will be released by MoonJune Records in spring 2010.

Encyclopedic trumpet player Bill Jones covers the musical waterfront, bringing his distinctive voice to jazz, punk, funk, opera, pop, reggae, electronic, hip hop, blues, dub, and free-improv contexts. He first came to prominence in the celebrated 1990s ska band the Mudsharks, and currently tours regularly with Pacific Northwest reggae mainstays Clinton Fearon (famous as house bassist for Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark Studio) and the Boogie Brown Band. In addition to these projects and Iron Kim Style, Bill also gigs with Plan B, playing ambient hip hop electronica with live instruments. In Iron Kim Style, he plays muted trumpet embellished with echo and wah pedals through a 100-watt amplifier.

Thaddaeus Brophy learned to play guitar at age 8, 12, 16, 19, 20, 26, 34, 36, and 39. Most of these intensive episodes of instrumental development coincide with the creation of original but eventually and/or ultimately boring (at least to himself), 'classic' rock, heavy metal, and twentieth century classist musics, plus a great deal of neighborhood noise. The material that was certain to transpire from this and a 'zeal' for overdetermined rhythmic phrase grammars means kick-ass temporal significance on a Rickenbacker 620-12, mind you.

Ryan Berg has been a veteran of the Seattle music scene for 15 years and counting. Although he began his musical training in drums and percussion, he finds his musical center with the electric fretted and fretless bass. He has been a founding member of numerous bands of many musical persuasions (Iron Kim Style, The Decliners, Seewall, HighRize, Jetlegrs, Axolotl, King Size American, State, Laud, and the BJS), toured both domestically and internationally (most recently in Taiwan), participated in various music festivals, and performed in a solo capacity. He has been cited for his “strong presence” in the Seattle Weekly and is known as a rock-steady player unafraid to venture into improvised music, jazz, drum ’n’ bass, acid-funk, and metal-stomp rock.

Apart from his occasional forays with Iron Kim Style, Brooklyn-based drummer Jay Jaskot formerly manned the kit for MoonJune artists Moraine. He currently plays with the band miniJ, periodically rumbles about with James Whiton and the Downtown Apostles, and previously played a kaleidoscopic range of instrumental rock and jazz with the Brothers of Max Catharsis, DJ O.J. McVeigh, HighRize, and State.

Artists' website: www.myspace.com/ironkimstyle

Image: MoonJune Records artists, Iron Kim Style.




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