Sam’s Saloon, 1640 E. Prospect St.
Tuesday, April 8, 9 p.m., $5, 21+
If Van Halen had a few more brothers who excelled in the brass section of their high school band, they might have sounded something like Claws of Paradise. Claws’ song “Avenue X,” for instance, opens with a pleasantly grooving guitar line reminiscent of Halen’s “Unchained,” except right about where you expect the song to crank into the first verse, a subdued blast of trumpet and saxophones falls into the mix.
“We all [got together] at NYU,” said Connecticut native and tenor saxophonist Matt Kelly. “At first, we just experimented, got better at our instruments, and then we started writing songs. Because of the horns, people assumed that we would play jazz, but we wanted to play rock.”
But if rock was essentially their full-blooded genre of choice, why include horns at all? Kelly, who has played the sax since the fourth grade but quit the high school band when the marching aspect became too much, elaborated. “When I was in middle school, I deviated onto the guitar and started playing Metallica songs. But I discovered I was much better on the sax.”
Their self-titled debut is an amazingly competent and enjoyable amalgamation of modern jazz, classic rock and 1980s metal. The band can leap from Sabbath-era Ozzy to a slow, Morrison-like trance, to pounding, speed metal riffs. All the while, the horns enhance the mood, whether suggesting a lively concert hall vibe or a sultry, smoky nightclub.
“We try not to be too overbearing with the horns,” Kelly said. “We want it to be tasteful, not the centerpiece.”
Indeed, the horn section created an image problem for the band early on, especially when they went by the moniker Country Club and the Porn Horns.
“People either thought it was the greatest name ever or laughed in a way that suggested they didn’t take us seriously,” Kelly said.