Friday, August 29, 2014

Diesel Cats and the Jazz Explorers

"Diesel Cats and the Jazz Explorers departed from San Francisco Bay on May 17, 1990. Their 52-foot plywood ketch, The Blue Alembic, was equipped with twin diesel Cummins Marine engines, a collection of fine seaworthy microphones, and a state-of-the-art DAT recorder to capture the musical adventures they were intent on pursuing. Fourteen months later they sent me this chronicle of their year before the mast, their first long-playing cassette album In Search of Blue Treasure.

"The central and burning question that suffuses and drives this album is 'Who am I?' Cats and the Explorers throw themselves into this question time and time again, always surfacing with a new piece of the puzzle, a new shade of blue. Listen to the impending danger of 'Barified,' the jaunty hip-ocracy of 'Columbus Disrupts,' the suspended innocence of 'Typical '50's Night,' the dark yet hopeful mystery of 'For Joan's Dog;' delight and dance to the quirkily intimate 'Pirate Song' and the perkily buoyant 'Oregon Gumbo' and 'Fake African Cats;' there's plenty here to both provoke the mind ('Fidel' and 'Patriot Song') and soothe the soul ('Thar He Blows').

"The Jazz Explorers have been playing together as a unit for nearly 15 years. In spite of their name, they have yet to discover much jazz, but they bring a seasoned and sophisticated naivete to everything they play. And Diesel Cats, as captain and musical director, is a bricoleur extraordinaire, here combining flotsam and jetsam into a masterpiece of chamelionic syncretism. Despite the corporate sponsorship of the Blue Treasure Expedition/Tour (Budweiser and Miller were passed over for Friskies), Diesel Cats and the Jazz Explorers have completely spurned crass commercialism and bring to those whose tastes are most unusual and refined an album of rare beauty - by turns deep and mystical, then lite and playful, and yet always true and blue. In Search of Blue Treasure is an instant classic, whimsically metaphysical and spiritually uplifting, a tribute to the enduring values of the human soul."

-Cat Hentoff, Playtoy Magazine