Saxophonist and composer Ken Field – one of the most dynamic men in Boston’s music scene – is especially known by yours truly as an affiliate of Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic, a group that I’ve always deeply respected. Nothing could set me up for this release, though, as Revolutionary Snake Ensemble are by all means a New Orleans-style marching band spiced with modern jazz and funk: saxophones, trumpet, trombone, an acoustic bass and a couple of drummers, everybody performing in multi-colour Mardi Gras masks. The repertoire is predominantly based on Field’s rearrangement of time-honoured traditional songs, yet can comprise – as in this case – covers of Billy Idol’s “White wedding”, Ornette Coleman’s “Chippie” and the world-famous “Que Sera Sera” by Livingston & Evans.
RSE are definitely amusing to hear, spreading optimistic vibrations all over the place; they play with serene abandon, altering parts of the tunes with a degree of improvisational shrewdness, falling on their feet when the moment of returning to order comes. In spite of the project’s name this stuff is not exactly radical, yet there was no problem in repeatedly letting my foot do some energetic tapping along those bouncy vamps. The only minus is a version of “Down By The Riverside” sung by a rather hesitant Gabrielle Agachiko, but the rest is more than OK for almost a hour of semi-complex divertissement informed by impressions of an ancient spirit.