Anomalous Quintet
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Anomalous Quintet

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Funk


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"Review: Anomalous Quintet's Life on an Oblate Spheroid"

Musicians are definitely a breed apart, especially those individuals who pursue jazz as a profession and a way of life. Their world is a constant battle to stay afloat in an ocean that is usually filled with obscurity. In most instances, many will struggle just to get noticed, while others languish in a genre that is seldom appreciated. But those jazz standard bearers who succeed and become widely known get there through voracious tenacity, sheer talent, luck and word of mouth. Those ingredients collectively have spawned the careers of numerous artists and musicians through 100 years of artistic impression, while others have fallen by the way side. But every now and again, there comes an exceptional set of circumstances that defy the norm of how jazz artists are discovered, especially when they seemingly glide their way into familiarity. The Anomalous Quintet just happens to be one of those groups who fit the category of having successfully maneuvered their way through the obstacles. Having already recorded one CD, this group of high octane professionals continues to evolve down a path of notoriety.
Life On An Oblate Spheroid is the Anomalous Quintet's latest release and their second recording overall. Although the group has a sound that is difficult to classify, they use a variety of influences to push the envelope of jazz to the hilt. With ideas etched in jazz, rock, fusion, blues and funk, their style of music more closely resembles a straight-ahead approach. Having said that, logic does not clearly define who these dazzling group of guys are. Over ten entertaining tracks, the elements of funk and circumstance, harmonic discourse, Latin-induced grooves and soulful melodies come together under an immense umbrella of syncopated rhythms. Although the group avoids the usual approach that most jazz artists undertake to be discovered, which is described as the so-called smooth/contemporary approach, Anomalous' music makes a statement worth hearing. In retrospect, that could be why they are so popular regionally and have such a cult following. They have made quite a name for themselves in and around Portland Oregon.
Led by guitarist Jason Newsom, who formed the band in 1997, the Anomalous Quintet takes listeners into the underexplored aspects of jazz. Throughout Life On An Oblate Spheroid, there are abstract angles that have been filled with colorful infusions of a variety of descriptive tones. In the overall scheme of syncopated rhythmic responses to a classic American art form, these five musicians shoot a variety of chords with pinpoint accuracy. Their collective appeal revolves around the fact that their music is fresh and innovative. No matter what the direction, the improvised use of original compositions, coupled with a set of stylized covers are beyond the scope of predictability. In the realm of creativity, the unprecedented approach to fusing varying styles of jazz with any number of other musical influences takes on an identity of its own.
With a stellar cast of musicians, the echoes of Thelonious Monk, Rufus, Sly and the Family Stone and Wayne Shorter are prominently dispersed throughout Life On An Oblate Spheroid. With the addition of abstract super imposed responses to everything musically equipped to be jazz, the unexplored realm of creativity has been graphically displayed. The visual jazzscape painted by the Anomalous Quintet has an air of sensibility attached, inspite of the group's unpredictable approach to jazz. All-in-all, this is a CD that is definitely worth a listen.

Reviewed by: Sheldon T. Nunn

"Simple Forms"

Often, I will read reviews by others regarding a certain artist just to see what they took away from a given recording and compare my own views to see if there’s any parallel. Well, the reviews regarding Jason Newsom’s Anomalous Quintet are probably more in sync with my own take on the group than any review has ever been. The group’s second album entitled Life on an Oblate Spheroid was heralded by Jazzreview as being “fresh and innovative” and “pushes the envelope of jazz to the hilt.” This latest effort, while maybe not pushing the envelope as forcefully, places a good, solid, uniquely diverse spin on the genre that clearly serves as the group’s signature in the wide world of jazz.

Everything about this recording is solid. From drums to guitar to bass to horns (the lower register sax runs add a distinctive touch here), it’s all simply solid. No holes through which to peer into an empty void left by a lack of creativity or insight. From the opening track “Entanglement” right through to the finale “BG,” this is well-conceived upper level material with originality punctuating every tune. Jams here are filled to the brim with stylish runs and everything from blues to funk. The sly bluesiness of the otherwise pretty funky, jazzed-up guitar work combined with smart bass lines, accentuated backbeats and slick, smooth, telling horn passages make this a quality production to the end.

I’m always seeking that artist or group who opens my eyes, makes me truly sit up and take notice because of their grasp on what it takes to come across as different without being beyond recognition or common taste. Anomalous Quintet, with Simple Forms, has that firm, unrelenting grasp. A great deal of serious and artistic thought went into this project, as is evidenced by explanations in an interview conducted by another source with guitarist Newsom.

One of the things Newsom focuses on is being able to emulate a pianist as closely as possible. He talks about the ability of artists like guitarist Leo Kottke to play both melody and chords at the same time (I think one might also include the late guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix, as well). Also, the thought and energy that went into the odd-timed track 5, “Shanghaied,” particularly the intro, was absolutely awe-inspiring.

Here in its third outing, Anomalous Quintet, as an innovative, skilled group, comfortably captures my vote.

Reviewed by: Ronald Jackson


Quintessence (1999)
Life on an Oblate Spheroid (2005)
Simple Forms (2008)



“Originality punctuating every tune”
“A quality production to the end”
“Makes me truly sit up and take notice”
“Anomalous Quintet, as an innovative, skilled group,
comfortably captures my vote.”
—Ronald Jackson,

“Pushes the envelope of jazz to the hilt”
“Fresh and innovative”
“Beyond the scope of predictability”
—Sheldon Nunn,

“Newsom's finger-picking approach to the guitar is absorbing”

“Supremely funky”
“York absolutely sizzles”
—The Oregonian (Portland)

“Refreshing and punchy…full of smart melodies and solid arrangements”
—The Jazz Society of Oregon

Anomalous Quintet is the project of guitarist and composer, Jason Newsom, who formed the group in Portland, Oregon in 1997. They have released three CDs to date, and all have received outstanding reviews. Their latest release, Simple Forms, includes nine original blues-inspired and groove-infected tunes. Each reconstructs a basic song form with catchy melodies, bold saxophone arrangements, and tasteful, sizzling jazz improvisations.

See the official website,, for details.