Joe Baiza & the Universal Congress Of

  • Joe Baiza & the Universal Congress Of
  • Universal Congress Of (SST) 1987 
  • Universal Congress Of
  • Prosperous and Qualified (SST) 1988 
  • This Is Mecolodics EP (SST) 1988 
  • The Sad and Tragic Demise of Big Fine Salty Black Wind (Ger. Enemy) 1990 

Saccharine Trust guitarist Baiza’s first solo record contains two endless studio jams, sans vocals. “Certain Way” covers the entire first side and part of the second; whether you’ll actually turn the record over to hear how it finishes depends entirely on your ability to remain awake during nineteen enervating minutes of four guys dicking around formlessly in the studio. But his band’s next outing, Prosperous and Qualified, is much better — a jazzy, spacious rock record that contains actual songs, credible sax riffing (by Steve Moss) and other good stuff.

The luxuriantly post-bop vocabulary of the five-song This Is Mecolodics‘ lengthy, tongue-in-cheek liner essay doesn’t, ultimately, go very far towards explaining just what the term (the use of which Baiza is nominally serious about) means. One pigeonhole to eliminate immediately — parodistic packaging aside — is the fake jazz once espoused by semi-kindred spirit John Lurie. This is as real (spiritually, at least) as jazz gets. Baiza’s as hell-bent on improv as ever: garroting his axe Sonny Sharrock-style on the virulent “Joey,” softening the tone and lending a mariachi feel to Ornette Coleman’s “Law Years,” even sitting out a round as Steve Moss and Jacob Kuhn tussle in the steel cage sax matchup “NiĀ¤os de la Tierra.”

Sad and Tragic Demise returns to tighter structures, emphasizing the band’s formidable new rhythm section. Versions of Ronald Shannon Jackson and Henry Threadgill numbers reveal more precision and swing than anything in UCO’s past. Baiza, however, downplays his guitar work (probably a bad idea) and sings on a number of tracks — definitely a bad idea, aside from “Uh-Huh,” an oddball Donald Fagen soundalike.

[Ira Robbins / Deborah Sprague]

See also: Saccharine Trust