DDT is a sinewy trio which has its genesis in a shadowy but vital sextet called M.I.C.E. (the Manhattan Improvising Chamber Ensemble), which in their few gigs around NYC knocked a select few on their behinds in the mid-1990s. I remember one in particular at the Knitting Factory in which I kept scribbling such superlatives in my review notes as "Henry Cow for adults!!!" But they were better than that, a razor-lean amalgam of modern classical structures and wild flights of improv fancy that did far more for the links between the two than any number of academics writing in the N.Y. TIMES about the similarities between Cecil Taylor and Arnold Schoenberg (?). Guitarist extraordinaire Dom Minasi, supercellist Thomas Ulrich and the equally fearsome bassist Dominic Duval were mainstays of the group, and I'm sorry to say that to my knowledge they (including a female singer with heavy operatic experience) never recorded. Sad, but DDT remains even though Mr. Duval did not (gone off and away to points more theoretical like the Taylor Trio and the CT String Quartet).
Rather than challenge all 24/7, current bass player Ken Filiano knows his place and handles Minasi's thorny charts with aplomb, so the 'chamber' feel remains most evident here. Tell that to Ulrich, however, during the woolier cello breaks between statements of the theme in a notable cover of Wayne Shorter's "Witch Hunt." A lot of Minasi's melodies have that eyebrow-lifting 'what if?' attitude Shorter has always been good at; one such example of that is "Waltz for Eric," a tune that's been in the DDT playbook since the beginning. Move on to the title bit, Minasi's "Time Will...," and Ulrich reveals a wintry Schostakovichian side to counter the sprightly cymbal and drum work of guest John Bollinger. Adding Bollinger on this CD was appropriate as he ups the Jazz quotient and reinforces Minasi's gentle humor. As ever I can't say enough about Dom M.'s guitar work. He comps with a rubbery sense of exactitude and though his tone owes something to John Abercrombie he ventures regularly into much freer territory while managing to rein in the proceedings so that probably not even your uncle whose last Jazz purchase was the Smithsonian's BIG BAND RENAISSANCE would feel too out of place. Unc might especially go for the early hard-bop sound of "DMP" it's a treat to hear Ulrich dig right into those chubby chords. "John" borrows the opening of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and becomes, to paraphrase the late Rahsaan Roland Kirk, "something else for Trane that Trane could have said." A stately ballad in the Impulse! years tradition, I'd love to hear McCoy Tyner cover it. Completing the session is a somber "Round Midnight" with a slinky Carol Mennie vocal; simply couldn't be more evocative of that longing-beneath-a-streetlight air I always thought Monk and friends were going for. Equally, it points up how DDT is as convincing an attempt to meld the stringed instruments and forward-thinking Jazz as Dave Douglas' string quintet.
Some scribes have it that Mr. Minasi got too famous too early; if they still feel that way I have to suggest that they recall how history is writen by the victors (or in this case, the ones who get the record contracts), and how many transcendent ideas like M.I.C.E. fall by the wayside and never have the influence they should. With TIME WILL TELL Dom M. gets on with it, further refining the synthesis. Great job, looking forward to more ear-opening music from Mr. Minasi... as soon as I've digested this.
by Kenneth Egbert
Copyright Jazz Now, April 2004 issue, all rights reserved
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