Stabinsky jumps right to the front, quickly joined by Irabagon on the Henry Threadgill dedicated "Mauch Chunk is Jim Thorpe" and the piano/saxophone combination imparts a far different accent compared to past dynamics of Irabagon and Evans. What has clearly not changed is the quartet's penchant for effectively mixing passages of engagement with those of cooperation and the addition of a chord instrument enhances both. "West Bolivar" is a bossa nova-themed dance on the third rail with Shea pushing Stabinsky and Irabagon in and out of harm's way. The off-kilter rhythmic structure of the Dave Holland inspired "Obelisk" features some explosive soloing from Irabagon matched by Stabinsky's inventive—if more structured—contribution. More consistently melodic is "Niagra," a subdued waltz for the late saxophonist Will Connell whose club of the same name was the first live venue for MOPDtK.
Hard bop and blues dominate "Herminie" while "Townville" utilizes three distinct melodies linked by free improvisations. The Latin R&B flavor of "Mehoopany" features classy and soulful solos from Stabinsky and Irabagon; Shea interrupts the mood with a hectic snare performance before the piece returns to its central theme. The odd title is, like almost all of Elliott's compositions, taken from the name of a Pennsylvania town. Mauch Chunk itself is the state's former name for the town that—as explained by the extended title track—is now Jim Thorpe, PA.
As the wider recognition of MOPDtK builds, it's appropriate to point out that Elliott has become a leading composer of complex scores with the kind of high-wire flexibility needed to maneuver between structure and improvisation. The new quartet, as with the Evans era group, can sound like a large ensemble or an intimate club act as they seamlessly move from lyrical expression to the sound of an exploding junkyard. After more than ten years, Mostly Other People Do the Killing sounds better than ever; reinvigorated, mischievous and perhaps more willing to take a deep breath in the midst of these multifaceted works.
Karl Ackermann - allaboutjazz.com