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Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
Band Jazz Alternative


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"Brick's Pick's - LA Weekly"

Finally, The Reptet are in town. Of course you’ve never heard of them; they’re from Seattle and, like so much of the excellent jazz from that sodden corner of the country, they can’t seem to get any attention at all. (It was the same for their underground scene in the late ’80s until SubPop came along — but how many times can that happen?) We love their Do This! and Chicken or Beef — this is not pseudo anything, but genuine jazz, with terrific playing, great arrangements, writing, energy, imagination, weirdness. A bit of the NYC Loft vibe, maybe. Lots of Mingus. Like a lot of the new jazz scene they’re booking themselves on exhausting DIY couch tours that go from joint to joint at a pace Black Flag would have appreciated (tho’ how many rock bands then did three or four sets a night?). They’ve scored a couple gigs our way this time, this Saturday at Molly Malones and then Monday at Jax in Glendale, which may be the hippest thing you’ve seen in Glendale in a long time. There’s no cover. Playing for love and gas money and free eats. It’s a long drive back to Seattle.
-Brick Wahl - LA Weekly

"Seattle Weekly - Agendacide"

On its 7" vinyl debut, Agendacide, Seattle jazz ensemble Reptet enlists two of the genre's most underrated virtues: brevity and tuba. Sure, brevity is a given on seven inches, but it's worth noting that Reptet is putting its best foot forward with Agendacide, a record that teases at a poppier, more accessible Critters Buggin' before revealing itself as a smoother orchestra equipped with lush sax solos that give way to coordinated hysteria on all fronts. But in just 12 minutes, Agendacide doesn't give Reptet away, leaving enough to the imagination to make this record-release show something worth anticipating, not predicting. - Seattle Weekly


The Reptet is part of a forward-thinking 16 year-old Seattle collective called the Monktail Creative Music Concern, which was started by two grunge-era immigrants from Philadelphia. The pianoless sextet's name originally derived from its origins in repertory jazz, but it has abandoned this trajectory for original, gently out-oriented music.

Trumpeter Samantha Boshnack's open voicings, jaunty tempos and buoyant timbral mixes for two winds and two brass have a friendly monster feel in a comic sequence for the Marx Brothers. Flighty flute and groaning arco bass capture "Groucho"'s contrasting sides and a muted-trombone lead on the skipping, mid-tempo "Zeppo" has a cool, West Coast airiness. "Harpo," which begins with the sound of the needle dropping on a scratchy old harp record, achieves a bittersweet and elegiac mood of orchestral grandeur.

Bassist Ben Verdier takes a more oblique compositional approach on "Mumia's Lament" and "Little Caesar," using haunting low-register clarinet on the first and mock hotel swing and a staccato trumpet-stab accompaniment for the latter. The Reptet often employs a mixed-solo strategy, with especially good results from Boshnack's slide trumpet and Izaak Mills' bass clarinet on "Bad Reed Blues." Mills' title cut features collective improv, vocal insertions, samples, a herky-jerky melody and in-and-out-of-phase riffs.

Individually, trombonist Ben O'Shea is an accomplished soloist ("Chico," "Harpo"), and Izaak Mills evokes a luxuriant, growling Archie Shepp on the lowing "Mumia's Lament." Verdier's vivid bass vamps and drummer John Ewing's great time and fills keep the music moving. The surprise ending to "Do This!" - I won't spoil it - is a nice touch.
- Paul DeBarros

"Jazziz - Top pick"

Jazziz writer Alexander Gelfand's choice for top release of 2006

Reptet - Do This! (Monktail)
This Seattle sextet does it all: it grooves, it rocks, it squawks - occasionally, it even talks. Mostly, it sounds like a New Orleans jazz band on crystal meth. - Alex Gelfand

"All Music Guide"

It has been argued that music cannot be abstract and funky at the same time—that one automatically cancels out the other. But thankfully, there are some musicians who refuse to be governed by either/or thinking, and the Seattle-based Reptet has a lot of fun with avant-garde jazz on Chicken or Beef?. It is rare that one hears the words "fun" and "avant-garde" in the same sentence, but in fact, fun is an important part of the equation on this early 2008 recording—which is not to say that Reptet shies away from the cerebral or the abstract. There is plenty of quirky, left-of-center experimentation on Chicken or Beef?; this isn't exactly music that one is going to hear alongside Amy Winehouse or Kelly Clarkson on a Top 40 station. But at the same time, these inside/outside performances have more playfulness and funkiness—not to mention humor—than one typically expects from avant-garde jazz. - Alex Henderson

"Earshot - Cover story"

Movin' Ahead in the Tradition

Reptet is a traditional jazz band.Not so much because you hear, coursing through their forward-reaching music, the strains of Dixieland and many other later developments from it.The trad, swing, and bop elements are there, but Reptet is traditional in a simpler sense.When the sextet's four horns and solid rhythm section hoot and blast, weaving and walloping like a sideshow pugilist, they convey a sense that Reptet has engaged both the history of jazz styles and the art form's constant quest for innovation.

The vitality of the present and the promise of the future pervade their work as essentially as does a reverence for the past.And the results are impressive. At times, in their live performances, they appear a juggernaut jazz band, arresting, compelling, and just plain cranked-up.

And they show, on their just-released album, Do This!(Monktail Records) that they have many musical ideas at their command. It's an assured, dynamic effort that, like Reptet's live shows, relies on originals penned by four of the sextet's members.

Do This! is one of the most convincing albums of the last several years from Seattle jazz players. It manages to capture the thrill of the band's live performances, even as it operates within the very different dimensions of the studio. Their audience-friendly live shows are at times ragged affairs that, at their finest moments, sharpen from an unruly onrush to a concerted campaign, firing on several fronts, with the soloists in sympathy and the rhythm section as taut as rebar. Their recording displays similar spirit, but appeals less to the rawness and power of clubgoing than the pleasures of careful listening.

The cuts range. There's Tobi Stone's jauntily good-humored 'Bad Reed Blues' complete with squawks from said reed. There is Samantha Boshnack's set of hommages to the brothers Marx, of which 'Harpo', introduced with guest Bronn Journey's harp, salutes the most tenderly odd of the mob. And there's the soulful sorrow of Izaak Mills's 'H.R.'

Stone and Mills play a range of saxes, bass clarinets, flutes, and assorted other instruments. (In live shows Mills also wears odd hats, jumps about quite a bit, and ensures that getting out of the house is fun.) Boshnack plays trumpets - slided and slideless. Ben O'Shea is a captivating trombonist. Holding it all together (with the aid of the horn players' evident practiced cohesion and attention to each other), are versatile drummer John Ewing and commanding, thrumming bassist Benjamin Verdier.

For its individual contributions and group cohesion, Reptet is a band that deserves attention. It also appears ready for the encouragement, and provocation, of billing alongside much better-known, "national" acts.

The members of Reptet are all associated with the Monktail Creative Music Concern, a loose aggregation of jazz players who have a toe or two inside the mainstream and the rest of their selves in the many meandering tributaries of progressive jazz.

The consortium's members have formed mix-and-match lineups for their various purposes, most of which relate to that curious impulse of jazz to move the tradition ahead because, after all, doing so is the tradition.

The Reptet lineup of today results from a process of pruning and figgering that goes back several years to woodshedding that John Ewing organized in the late 90s. Members came and went, and in some cases, such as bassist Ben Verdier's, returned. One alumnus is trumpeter Chris Littlefield, now with Carl Denson's Tiny Universe. A crucial turn, for Reptet, was the moment when its members decided to replace a departing pianist with a trombonist, with the result that Reptet ventured on with no chordal instrument.

At first, says Samantha Boshnack, one of the band's four composers, "I was a bit nervous about composing for that lineup, but the instrumentation has opened up a lot of new ways of writing."

Three trombonists later, Ben O'Shea became a fixture of Reptet - a particularly sinuous and searching one.

At last year's Earshot Jazz Festival, the band performed with great spirit, and then another crucial lineup change took place: Saxophonist Tobi Stone, who had been playing with the Tiptons all-women saxophone combo, as she still is, returned.

That provided Reptet with real clout up front, and enough skilled horns that none predominates, and a sense of a shared undertaking emerges. "More than anything, with the passage of time and the introduction of new players, it went from a group that was seeking an identity to something that had some kind of identity," says Ewing.

Now, with the lineup set and the players settled and in synch, the group's composers have a distinctive lineup around which to frame their work.

Adopting an all-originals format has long been a way to raise the eyebrows of jazz's more hidebound listeners, but it has also been the natural way to go for players who - not to harp on the point - wish to show that tradition
is a progressive, not static or reified process.

For Mills, playing originals has a simple rationale: "Standards are music by people I don't know." And: "As a player it's just not as rewarding to play old music that other people played better." The opportunity to play originals is "probably why I stick around," he says. Ewing agrees: "When you play music by people you don't know, it's more an interpretation, versus a collaboration. When you can get it straight from the person who wrote it, it's happening at the moment."

In its ethos, Boshnack suggests, "Reptet is like a rock band. Everybody brings in stuff and then we work things out as a group. I never come in with what I want - I have an idea and everybody molds it."

The molding has been going on for some time, and it shows to great effect both in concerts and on disc. Part of the approach is to embrace some of the spirit of free jazz, but to retain charts. Says Mills: "Pre-planned, organized music is fun, but in a jazz context you too often end up with people who are reluctant to play organized things because they're too cool for school."

In fact, he says, sticking with written charts that nonetheless provide room for improvisation and interplay provides a solid basis for other kinds of innovation. For example, the band can then toy with the sonic opportunities that new technologies increasingly permit on stage and on disc. He says: "We're open to other recording capabilities, besides just playing in a room with two mics - overdubbing, different recording sounds, electronic sounds..."

"Another strength of the group, I think," chimes in Ben Verdier, "is that we play some things that are very accessible, and some that push the boundary more. It's a great thing to bring people along who might not listen to the more out sorts of things."

Interestingly, the group's writing sustains the feel of accessible "tunes" even as it often is intricate and conveys a fascinating sense of jazz history. A comparison, in that sense, might be the sinewy, braided, old-and-new sounds that Henry Threadgill conjures from his distinctive bands.

Reptet's version of this - Mills's funny hats, etc. - is in similar spirit to Threadgill's summoning of the circus, the sideshow, and the barroom.

"We're definitely not a sad group," says Ewing. "And we're not a sip-your-martini and pontificate-about-whatever type of group."

Says Verdier: "We do well in situations where we can feel the focus of the audience on us. I enjoy getting to play jazz without what Izaak likes to call "jazz pressure." There's more expectation of formality that comes with saying your group plays jazz."

- Peter Monaghan

"The Seattle Times"

Judge this album by its cover? Do that!

The grunge era turned Seattle into a magnet for musicians, not just because it was on fire commercially, but because of a creative outlook that combined both whimsy and darkness.

The Reptet, a Seattle jazz band founded by a grunge-era immigrant from Philadelphia, reflects that Northwest sensibility nicely on a new album, "Do This!"

The album has been attracting attention worldwide because of its cover by the late, great Jim Flora, whose playful yet scary designs graced classic jazz albums in the '40s and '50s by artists such as Louis Armstrong, Shorty Rogers and Gene Krupa.

The Reptet celebrates the release of "Do This!" at 8 p.m. today at Consolidated Works ($8; 206-381-3218). Amy Denio opens with a set for accordion and voice.

The "Do This!" album art is a textbook example of the maxim "It never hurts to ask."

"I started doing a little research on the Internet and I discovered who Jim Flora was," said Reptet drummer John Ewing, "and I thought, 'Why don't I just write the guy who runs the Jim Website on a lark?' I got an e-mail response almost immediately: 'You're right. It doesn't hurt to ask. Call me.' "

The image for the album has many typical Flora elements: black ink with a one-color wash; dismembered body parts (eyes, arms, mouths); forms that suggest wild animals (octopus, bird, snake, lizard) and random geometric shapes.

Beyond being a good publicity move, the Flora artwork works well with the Reptet's music, particularly on the raucous title tune and a series of four songs inspired by the Marx Brothers by trumpet player Samantha Boshnack.

Boshnack's tight, buoyant writing for this pianoless chamber sextet's four wind instruments (two brass, two reeds) is a highlight, recalling West Coast arrangers like Rogers. I especially like the way the flighty flute and groaning bowed bass capture Groucho's comic, opposite sides.

The elegiac "Harpo" begins, appropriately, with a snippet of harp music from a scratchy old record. The tune also features a strong trombone solo by Ben O'Shea, though it's one of the few solos on the album that come up to the level of the writing. Several passages in which players improvise at the same time — double and triple "solos," if you will — are more effective than individual solos, especially when they're done over jaunty, staccato riffs.

"Do This!" and the current Reptet lineup came about when reed player Tobi Stone, who had left the band and been replaced by Izaak Mills, rejoined for a one-off gig at last year's Earshot Jazz Festival.

"All the composers had to rearrange the tunes for one more horn," said Ewing. "The show was so much fun, it re-energized the whole group."

The Reptet began in the late '90s as a repertory quartet — hence the name — but soon evolved into a creative force. It is part of a loosely-defined, 16-year-old collective of 22 players called the Monktail Creative Music Concern. Inspired by experimentalists such as Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM) and Holland's Instant Composers Pool (ICP), Monktail was founded by two other Philadelphians, bassist John Seman and drummer Mark Ostrowski.

Ewing, who says he admires drummer Art Blakey for his straight-ahead swing and "heart," feels jazz needs to look beyond its past.

"If you box yourself in and just play in the tradition of what was happening in the U.S. until the '70s, you're missing an essential part of your education."

Amen to that. Check out the Reptet.

- The Seattle Times

"The Arts Journal"

Do This!: There is a sense of joy, whimsy and almost reckless abandon in much of the skilled ensemble writing and playing. Great fun!

Chicken or Beef?: The method in their madness is sometimes concealed in over-the-top shenanigans, but there's plenty of artistry, discipline and technique in this second CD by the Seattle sextet. They meld a wild combination of musical ingredients into tight arrangements that in some of their more structured moments recall the combo writing of Rod Levitt, in others jump bands of the early forties and, in many, nothing but Reptet.
- Doug Ramsey - Rifftides

"Melbourne (Australia) Herald Sun"

Do This!...Get This!

"A Gorgeous mix of beauty and brains. The band hits a sweet spot somewhere between hard bop and the fierce adventures of more free-form improvisation...That’s a blend to which many aspire, but few have the talent, determination or vision to fulfill." - Kenny Weir

"All About Jazz - Chicken or Beef?"

Chicken or Beef?
Reptet - Monktail Records

Free jazz and the avant-garde form an interesting and self-conflicted paradigm. All too often it seems musicians perceive the "free" aspect to mean that they must completely reject traditional music and become trapped in the ether of ambiguity, rather than perhaps accepting a loftier goal: the freedom to both use, and move beyond convention. Reptet is an exciting group which, judging by the music contained on the critically lauded Chicken Or Beef? has accepted that ideal—but only after having poked fun at anyone who would spend a paragraph entertaining such minutiae. Simply put, the album provides an hour of exciting, varied and expertly-realized music.

There is a refreshing awareness alongside a sense of unrelenting, yet effortless, energy to the compositions. This forms a strong and interesting contrast to their sometimes quirky nature. Harmonies flutter from tight unison to wide, yearning Wagner-esque sonorities in "Gwand Wabbit," all the while driven forwards by the exacting and infectious groove of drummer John Ewing and bassist Tim Carey. The lack of a traditional chordal instrument on a majority of the tracks in no way limits the music. The horns weave deft lines behind vivacious improvisations with far more interest and dynamic than could be achieved by a piano or guitar. The ensemble reveal a wide range of influences, from the explosive Mexican lament and dance on "Reptet Score!" to the jovial trombone-led masquerade on "That's Chicken or Beef" and the rocked up intro to "Fish Market."

As an album, it feels almost like a compilation, or a sampler of the band's more than obvious talent, and leaves the impression that they could easily release an entire record based on anyone of the themes explored. But this is not to say that it lacks cohesion, rather that they chose be trapped within one style, and have blurred the edges between the rest.

As to the question posed by the title: if you want fiery, spiced chicken, listen to some bop, and if you hunger for a beefier, more cerebral cut, look to the avant- garde. However, if you want both, along with a side from the expansive buffet of music, then Reptet and Chicken or Beef? Will provide a solid and exciting experience.

Published: November 30, 2008

- By Dave Major


Reptet - MCMC2, Monktail Records 2003
Do This! - MCMC4, Monktail Records 2006
Chicken or Beef? - MCMC8, Monktail Records 2008
Agendacide - MCMC-V1, Monktail Records 2009
AT THE CABIN - ARC2253, Artists Recording Collective 2011



Reptet is a genre bending band of musicians based out of Seattle whose instrumentation consists of drums, bass and four horns. These six multi-instrumentalists have an expansive approach to their music, performing original compositions that incorporate reggae, rock, ska, punk, modern classical, avant-garde, eastern European folk influences and more.

Their internationally acclaimed 2006 release, "Do This!" (Monktail Records) made the year end top 10 lists of many jazz journalists and was chosen Top Jazz CD of the year by Jazziz magazine's Alex Gelfand. They also won two Earshot Golden Ear Awards (celebrating the best of northwest jazz), including Best 'Outside' Jazz Group and Best Performance of the year (as part of the Monktail Raymond Scott Project). In 2007, Reptet criss-crossed the United States exhaustively touring in support of "Do This!”. Their next CD, “Chicken or Beef?” was released in the summer of 2008 and was similarly embraced. In fact, the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards named it a finalist for Jazz Record of the Year. They made an unexpected move in 2009 by taking a page from the punk rock play book and released a red vinyl two-song record called "Agendacide". They released their fourth CD entitled "At The Cabin" in January 2011. Their upcoming touring plans include trips to Europe, and Canada and across the US.

Their live performances have been described as, “arresting, compelling and just plain cranked-up!” with stage shows evolving into transformative performance art pieces using costumes, story telling, dance routines and absurdist humor. Young people are especially enthralled by Reptet. They have encorporated a educational component to their play book and have done numerous school presentations, workshops and clinics throughout the United States.

Reptet have established themselves as a new model for jazz in the 21st century by embracing tradition while simultaneously infusing their music with modern (and sometimes futuristic) sensibilities.