Like the apocryphal teenager who asked “Paul McCartney was in another group before Wings?” members of Toronto-based Dog Leg Dilemma (DLD) sound as if they figure jazz was invented in the 1970s, with touchstones fusion, John Zorn and Frank Zappa’s instrumentals. Still, DLD’s core of alto saxophonist Anthony Argatoff, guitarist Nick Lavkulik, drummer Noah Sherman and Peter Bull who plays basses, ancillary instruments and composed all tunes, are a change from bands mired in the 1960s. Starting the CD with This Must Be Why I Came Home with an ersatz emcee’s comments leading into a jazz-rock polka also shows a sense of self-deprecating fun.
DLD creates foot-tapping sounds featuring drum smacks and tough guitar chops approaching punk-rock stamina. But an outstanding group must transcend its influences. With no tone flattened or torqued, sentiment is obvious, but passion is missing. On a track like Part One – Are You Sure about This Argatoff squeezes out plumy notes harmonized with Lavkulik’s framing strums, but the effect is like hearing an overwrought crooner. However Equestrian Playtime gallops along with a Latin-tinged guitar solo and violinist Natalie Wong overdubbed into a string section. Although its allegiances are as noticeable as if tattooed on the musicians, the flexibility obvious in Roll with the Hunches makes it more notable. Melding licks from Zappa’s Peaches en Regalia, a Good King Wenceslas quote, a rumbling bass line, violin sweeps and reed honks, it demonstrates how DLD could up its game. DLD has a leg up on creating original statements, but more originality and discipline are needed. Not This Time perhaps, but maybe the next.