PREMIERE: Drama Section - I'll Have What I'm Having

Kelly Kirwan

Jazz is a quick fix for the mundane. It’s intricate and smooth even as it builds itself into a brass-band cacophony, a rush of quick chord progressions and intervals of slow, sultry alto sax. It’s shades-on-stage, unmarked-basement-bar-in-the-West-Village kind of cool—a genre constructed like an unwavering Jenga tower, its building blocks mixed and matched and continually rearranged by musicians that press the limits of musical structure. But enough analogies. Your quick fix is now available on Drama Section’s new LP, I’ll Have What I’m Having.

The Brooklyn quartet (formerly known as Beards) is a blend of guitar, woodwinds, and the occasional electronics courtesy of bandmates Nate Mendelsohn, Stephen Becker, Cory Todd, and Duncan Standish. Their first single off the album, "Guys and Dolls," feels like a narrative of human attraction, as it switches between soft, soothing interludes and flurries of chaos. If it were to play out on screen, we’d see a vintage montage of sly sideways glances and the subtle touches of two people realizing they’re very into one another. It’s an interplay of anticipation and elation, and a testament to one of jazz’s tenets: music playing like a conversation between the various instruments and the audience.

Another track that spins around this slow-moving seduction is "The Song Is You"—a melody fit for cheek-to-cheek swaying, at least in the beginning. It builds to a brassy apex throughout its eleven-minute stretch, with a rare use of vocals in its final moments: “I’ll tell you something that you already know,” the four boys sing together, sans instruments, before fading into the next track, leaving us with a vague but poignant lyric to mull over. These little nuances in Drama Section’s music make them as experimental as they are nostalgic for brass ensembles and syncopated rhythms.

And the nuances abound. As much as I’m partial to the deep pitch of a saxophone (it tends to steal the show), the guitar work at play here is also on point. Particularly on the track "Royal Jelly," whose introduction has a deep-toned strumming that feels heavily blues-inspired. As the song goes on, the guitar moves from careful plucking to fast-footed riffs reminiscent of rock 'n’ roll. The drums mirror the ebb and flow of the song’s forefront, shifting from light cymbal tapping to heavy-handed percussion.

So, to get on board, click on over to Drama Section's Bandcamp page to peruse their limited-edition cassette (which is the new vinyl, haven't you heard?). It'll even be sent to your door with "secret messages from the band" and "love to you only," because Drama Section knows how to turn up that old-school charm. 

Trust me, you want what they're having.