Grand melodies, shifting textures, and thick rhythms radiate from Todd Sickafoose's music. On Tiny Resistors, the bassist/composer matches his 8-piece New York band with a pair of guests, Andrew Bird and Ani DiFranco, to create a jazz record with the muscle and scope of an indie-rock orchestra. Throughout its 68 minutes of music, the record evokes images: the mysterious flora of a future epoch, the revelation of a secret message scribbled in invisible ink, an exodus of buzzing bees, and the silent sadness of an underwater piano, drowned in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. It is these visions, and others, that inspire the 11 original compositions on Tiny Resistors, Sickafoose's third and most lushly-produced release to date.
This is music from a thinker whom the San Francisco Chronicle calls; A captivating improviser, imaginative composer, and master of collaboration.
"The bassist Todd Sickafoose builds grooves from the ground up, but that's no impediment to the flow or buoyancy of his music. "Tiny Resistors," his third and strongest album as a leader, features a number of tunes in which multiple horn parts and guitar lines swirl around a tonal center, and over a calmly asymmetrical pulse. "Cloud of Dust," the title of one, feels appropriate; so too does "Invisible Ink, Revealed." Mr. Sickafoose has serious training in jazz, and there are more than enough intelligent solo flashes on the album to place it on a progressive post-bop axis. But he's also a rock musician, best known to many fans as a longtime confrere to Ani DiFranco (who appears briefly and unobtrusively here). As a composer he favors a straightforward rhythmic thrust and deceptively simple melodies; the most intricate developments tend to occur in a hazy middle register, where layered chords agglomerate and shift. Crucial to this balance is the rapport of a working band, cultivated within the eclectic Brooklyn scene. Some individual playing stands out the trombonist Alan Ferber and the guitarist Mike Gamble both distinguish themselves but nothing outshines the collective sound. Obviously Mr. Sickafoose, who augments his bass playing with assorted work on keyboard and mallet-percussion instruments, has a band identity in mind here. He achieves it with a rigorously focused imagination, and with no apparent strain." - Nate Chinen, NY Times --The New York Times
"Finding 21st century jazz that truly is hugely creative and utterly different in kind from what we've long known is by no means an easy task these days. You'll find it here on a disc whose publicity calls it a series of "postcards from the bent edge of jazz." His inspirations include such matters as the potentially catastrophic disappearance of bees in this country and pianos drowned by Hurricane Katrina in Lake Pontchartrain. Heaven knows it can be brooding and moody. But this is music that echoes no one you've heard (though it distantly shares DNA with the large group music once made by Carla Bley, as well as Roland Kirk's old drummer Bob Moses on Grammophone.) Sickafoose is one of the young lions from the amazing jazz conclave currently in Brooklyn, and the orchestra here is full of his cohorts. On top of that, one of the bassist/ composer/arranger's guests on this disc is Ani DiFranco, whose brain trust Sickafoose is a proud part of. Here is a musician who studied Balinese Gamelan and Harry Partch as a young man. While you'll find rock rhythms and electric guitar here as well as tango and quasi-classical textures, this is very much a jazz record, complete with handclaps and whistles. Put it this way I think Charles Mingus and Gil Evans would love this guy. In the world of postmodern jazz composition, there is no higher praise. " Jeff Simon, Buffalo News --The Buffalo News
"The inventive bassist/composer Todd Sickafoose has been plying his trade as a sideman while occasionally venturing forth as a bandleader in the progressive jazz world. With Tiny Resistors, he's hitting for a high average in presenting original music with a dramatic flair while playing not just the bass. Overdubbing keyboards, accordion, mallet instruments and the electric bass guitar, he orchestrates charts with many layers for a large ensemble that features electric guitars, brass and some woodwinds. Special guests Andrew Bird and Ani DiFranco play cameo roles, while the dynamic drummer Allison Miller focuses on tricky rhythms - rock and funk - to drive these pieces along bumpy hillsides. A walking to jogging pace, serious to whimsical, identifies "Future Flora" (great title!) as the amplified guitars of Adam Levy and Mike Gamble with Sickafoose on the Wurlitzer organ shush along with Miller and the horns of trumpeter Shane Endsley and trombonist Alan Ferber in 10/8 rhythm. A rustic old New Orleans blues rhythm centers the muted brass during "Paper Trombones," a bit dour and holding a mystery train like aura, with the vibes and bass playing of the leader conducting the trip. A wonderfully spacious intro with minimalist bells, vibes and celeste overdubs turns probing, moving forward into dense terrain on the title selection, with Miller's busy drumming as a fulcrum. The pieces "Bye Bye Bees" and "Pianos Of The Ninth Ward" with both Bird (violin) and DiFranco (wordless vocals) have a polyrhythmic base with handclapping, whistling and song sounds in tandem with the horns, or a somber post-Katrina waltz with Sickafoose on piano, the guitars, and an electric ukulele from DiFranco respectively. Bird also plays some country and eastern styled violin for the heartland Americana stylized "Cloud Of Dust." Also along this line of far east/far west dialect comparable to Bill Frisell is the rural feeling of "Whistle" with Sickafoose again on piano, or the very Midwestern "Everyone Is Going." Closest to rock in 7/8 time is "Invisible Ink, Revealed," on the craggy, heavy and darker edge of an inevitable unquiet storm. This is quite an ambitious project from Sickafoose. Considering his need to play many instruments while guiding the talented group through a variety of changes and phases, you would be hard pressed to fully realize the effort to took to make this music perfect. It's very close to complete, universally appealing, and unique unto itself." - Michael Nastos, All Music Guide --All Music Guide