C’mon Get Happy

Happy Apple: “Youth Oriented” (Universal)

Keri Carlson

When the members of the jazz trio Happy Apple begin to play, each appears to enter his own world. Saxophonist Michael Lewis wiggles up and down like a fish out of water. Drummer David King flails his arms wildly with every cymbal crash and pounding drum roll, making his limbs look like those of an orangutan. And bassist Erik Fratzke stands relatively still, except for jagged head thrusts to one side of his body. Any of the three could easily stage his own show and remain extremely entertaining.

That’s the beauty of Happy Apple – while each musician carries loads of talent, they never clog their sound by trying to top one another. Their latest album, “Youth Oriented,” finds the band sounding more together and taking greater risks than ever before.

The album opens with a calm lounge vibe. The first two tracks, “Youth Oriented” and “Green grass stains on Wrangler Jeans,” contain lightly brushed drums and delicate saxophone notes that softly bounce over a mumbled bass line.

David King’s composition, “The Landfall Planetarium,” switches things up a bit. The first 30 seconds resemble a college rock song, until Lewis throws in a pinch of jazz with his saxophone. Fratzke then leads the tune down a trippy path, his guitar playing resembling 1960s surf band The Ventures on acid. King adds yet another twist when he joins the two on a muffled Mellotron, which is entrancing enough to charm a snake. This instrument gently brings the song to a close and leads directly into a jumble of erratic bursts on King’s next composition “Salmon jump suit.”

The most satisfying part of “Youth Oriented” is the balance Happy Apple reaches between retaining some of their old sound and continuing to expand. The quirky, free-flowing groove found on past albums is still there, but the band is not afraid to toss it into a bag and mix it up a bit.