Originally from San Antonio but now residing in New Orleans, percussionist and vibraphonist Mike Dillon once also walked the streets of north Lawrence. Dillon performed actively in the Kansas City music scene in the early 2000s with projects such as Malachy Papers and The Go-Go Jungle that frequented local spots like The Brick and Davey’s Uptown. He has since enjoyed fruitful collaborations with Les Claypool, Ani DiFranco, and Galactic. Dillon relocated to New Orleans in 2006 after Katrina, the home of one of his most prominent project to date, Garage A Trois. Dillon has described moving to New Orleans as part of his “continuing education process” in music.
Signed to Royal Potato Family Records, based in Brooklyn, Garage A Trois began as a trio involving Galactic drummer Stanton Moore, Charlie Hunter and Sherik before adding Dillon and his now labelmate, Marco Benevento. After relocating, Dillon eventually came across a handful of musicians with whom he formed Mike Dillon’s Band Of Outsiders. Comprised of Dillon, trombonist Carly Meyers, bassist Patrick McDevitt and drummer Adam Gertner, the Band Of Outsiders create dynamic, punk jazz fusion hardly comparable to Functioning Broke, a solo feature from the mallet-wielding Dillon following Meyers and Gertner’s departure for a new project, ROAR.
Functioning Broke in its purest form is an experimental jazz vibraphone album affixed in a discography so dense you have to travel back three decades to absorb its full scope. The opening track, “Half Right **,” and “Chimp and Flower” cheerily jog along while “The Enchanted Sea,” a Martin Denny cover, and “Bachelor Pad” are two more developed and experimental selections within the album’s vexing landscape.
Four of the album’s tracks are original while six are covers from Elliot Smith, including “Christian Brothers,” “Independence Day,” and “Behind The Bars.” Dillon also covers Neil Young on “The Needle & The Damage Done.”
With the exception of the percussion outro, “Tabla Goodnight,” Functioning Broke is an emic view into the musical persona of Dillon through the vibraphone. Paired with captivating contributions of percussion, Dillon’s mastery of mallets is evident here. He manages a consistent creative conscience geared in a new direction despite the habitual nature of a career in performance. Dillon is a consummate professional with an anarchistic flame burning deep inside of him; it just may be more tangible on Band Of Outsiders tracks like “Homeland Insecurity” than on Functioning Broke.
Recommended If You Like: Mike Dillon’s Band Of Outsiders, The Dead Kenny G’s, Garage A Trois, Nolatet, Marco Benevento, The Go-Go Jungle, Billy Goat