Dave's True Story
BePop Records, USA
|Kelli Flint, vocals; Jeff Eyrich, bass, mixing; David Cantor, guitars, songw|
Trio Dave's True Story's fourth album continues to update the Lorenz Hart model of pop. The guys' black T-shirts and turned-down fedoras may put us in mind of well-off beatniks and Steely Dan's stepparents, but DTS set themselves apart with a folky dimension to their wise, often world-weary tunes.
You won't get weary of them, however. The slow tale-spinning of white line fever in "Chasing the White Line Down" (Motorhead wouldn't recognize it, but that's part of this group's charm) recalls the hardest thing about touring: the time spent in transit.
It's too easy to reference that old saw about how 'these towns all look the same' (when Jackson Browne wrote those words in "The Load-Out" some twenty-five years ago I think he retired them), so Dave Cantor instead snapshots the cascade of emotions triggered by what's seen from the bus windows ("Taking it town by town/Soft yielding shoulder/Cold was never colder..."). Beautifully lonely.
DTS's vessels may be classic, but their sentiments are very this-moment, as in "How Do You Break a Heart?" with its bluesy feel and modern self-blame ("I push at the words as if they're joking/I push at the words as if they're wrong"). I could imagine Billie Holiday singing this, but Kelli Flint would be hard to dislodge, if not impossible. A realist with a romantic's cry to her sweet alto, she is the singer Joni Mitchell would be now had she taken care of her voice! Flint's instrument is sharper, not as round, just perfect for Cantor's tunes.
A wisdom beyond Flint's years infuses the thoughtful groove of the opening "World in Which We Live Today." Here the Lorenz Hart connection is strongest, and she is elemental in putting it across. In ye olden days when Richard Rodgers had not yet discovered sentiment, Hart's lyrics evidenced a humorous cynicism, yet never entirely gave up on the possibility that something worthwhile might come of this Saint Giles Fair of fakery and attitude.
The estimable Cantor lets the melody carry the smarty-pants quotient while balancing "Strike the bells of Notre Dame/ Strange but I don't hear them ring" against "Boy and girl/Grateful to play a part/Seize the world/And then gently crush it to their hearts." Anomie and self-alienation have replaced the raised-eyebrow sarcasm of Hart's time, but thankfully the boy and the girl are still out there somewhere, moving the world forward.
Tenorman Bernhard Ullrich readily agrees with Flint's and Cantor's viewpoint, and the track is rounded out with no small care by Jon Dryden's chiming piano and Fred Walcott's bongos. Beautiful.
If a bit of the old-style country and western (say around Hank Williams's day) is more to your taste, "Still She Knows" with its echoed guitar and distant accordion have that lilt, as well as yet another shard of joy well hidden amongst the dross of everyday life.
Other sidemen who handily expand the color field of this CD are Randy Reinhart's mulled-wine trumpet in "How Do You Break a Heart?" or a hot, still muted fluegelhorn courtesy of Steve Gluzband coursing through the guitar lamento of "Cinder." Lalo and Tom Beckham adds subtle vibes here and there, while drummer Rich Zukor keeps the beat crisp or laid-back or both, as required.
Jeff Eyrich, producer of this very cool recording, deserves some props for his supple bass work. Like the many children in spirit of Ron Carter, Mr. Eyrich makes sure every note hits dead right. His sad-cast backing voice sets off Flint's very well. You miss him when he doesn't. "Kiss Me Quick," which might have been a hit for Teresa Brewer in 1958, is his track as much as it is Flint's, and his shuffle is exactly what the tune needs. And if that's not neat enough, note the speeded-up quote of "Unforgettable" in the coda, middle bit, and out-statement. Very cute.
Tunes like "Small Black Heart" and "Sandman" do bring the blackout curtain down with an almost adolescent sense of 'it's all over' limning these torch-song facades, but it's not like we haven't all been there. The tiniest spark remains, even if it can't be heard until the fourth or fifth listen. I think you may be listening to this one that much if not more.
Incline Records, Canada
|More good stuff (and not from Montreal and/or environs) from north of the border. This band, which calls itself Katahdin's Edge, recalls some of Andrew Hill's trios, not in the service of any wide palette of influences (though certainly there are some here) but in the odd processes of thought among the members (John Funkhouser, bass; Mike Connors, drums; Bill Myette, piano).|
These will make for arresting extralogical leaps that will drop the listener into places the music had not pointed to. No wonder much mention is made in the liner notes of varying mountain climbing metaphors! Structures appear, and others wink through them as, I guess, might rock formations through dissipating cloud cover.
It's fitting, in a way. As the sail of intuitive thinking seems to catch more and more wind among Western academe and the business world and logic less and less so (but then, logical tonic progressions have been under attack since before the invention of serialism), it's not surprising to find thoughtful practitioners of the form who have made their own logic as opposed to leaping into the fog and trusting to-what? I'd guess, something ineffable; maybe the groupmind with a catcher's mitt?
We'll begin with "Traveler in the Dark," inspired it seems by the Marsha Norman play of the same name (which didn't get the best reception on Broadway, but when was that ever the indication of anything when there's a upcoming musical based on the Disney movie Tarzan?).
Myette's tonal colors begin here with a loneliness akin to that of the Norman play's protagonist (marooned in a life after a tragedy for which there is no explanation), and through many serpentine and expansive corridors of melody (including a fine tart bow by Funkhouser) we find ourselves transferred into a near gospel-like (minus the blues roots) sense of having survived and having found it possible to move on. Beautifully done, and one hopes that somebody choosing to revive the play one day will use this piece somehow. Just make sure Myette gets his royalties as well!
Elsewhere, Latin beats appear and vanish to some surprise during "Zargonic Effect," just as a certain R&B flavor enters the drums (nowadays they seem to call it acid-jazz, but never mind) on the title track, accompanied by of all things a juice harp.
Later on, a cantilevered inside-out blues figure begins to alternate with a fluid melodic run à la Richard Beirach with Connors matching Myette note for note. Funkhouser's bass contributes a sort of Caribbean snap, and this many-faceted jewel is off and rolling down the hill. Try to keep up if you can!
"Wagons of the Night" begins in an almost Kurt Weill space with a hint of late nineteenth century color, but the rhythm section kicks in and takes us forward into postbop. Throughout the middle bit Myette clearly would like to remain meditative, but Connors and Funkhouser hurry him along as if there's an appointment to keep on the far side of the sheet music. As good an example of majority rules as anything I've heard in Jazz lately.
But how many times can anybody say they've fully and completely made their mind up about anything? There are always misgivings, there are always circumstances that get in our way and hurry us off. "Wagons" is a good example of one of those hard-to-define states of being. If you aren't paying too close attention you won't even notice the first notes following "Wagons" of the tour de force "Full Circle," its distant pedal-point synth not so much cushioning the action as providing a breath of atmosphere for the piano to play off of. A lengthy Funkhouser statement functions as both rhythmic and melodic center, freeing Myette and Connors to comment. Some Tyneresque left-hand action burgeons, and the wind chimes bring us above the cloud line. Very nice.
Katahdin's Edge use the synthesizer as the merest garnish, I should add. I don't care how much you dislike the pedal-point tendencies some artists have had with them (say, the Dream-Whip tendencies of the otherwise very convincing early Return to Forever and all the abuses since) but this trio weaves the instrument into the fabric with great care. It's a tint, not a crutch.
Far more obvious are the hyperpolka flavor of "Zargonic Effect" (both before and after the Latin motif) or the simple joys dancing through the closer, "Zoeie."
Step Away isn't the easiest CD to get into, but let it invite you into its sound world and you will see the wisdom in staying a while. Real fine.
'I' Is Memory
|Dedicated to Wayne Shorter, and it's easy to see why, 'I' Is Memory contains a smidge more of that "seeking for that which hasn't yet been found" than we usually hear from Shorter himself.|
You may recall the VSOP Quintet (Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Freddie Hubbard, and Wayne Shorter) which toured the pre-electric Miles Davis Quintet songbook in the late seventies and very early eighties while Miles was "on vacation." Now and again Herbie and Wayne would go it alone on a few duos such as "Stella by Starlight" and so forth. 'I' Is Memory springs from a similar elfin aura of longing and mystified search.
There's a possibly greater debt to the European impressionists like Stravinsky and Debussy evident as well herein (some of pianist Francois Bourassa's tonal wanderings in "Petit Songe Garanti" recall said influence), but that's all to the good. Sounds of children playing down the block (Rieu's sampling) add even more to a sense of being caught between. This track, one of the few faded out, shouldn't have been. I'd have liked to see how they resolved it.
Rieu's use of soprano sax, especially during one duo with drummer Philippe Soirat, makes him disappear in a cushion of well lathered percussives now and again during an intriguing take on Burke and Van Heusen's "Like Someone in Love." Though times do crop up in which the sense of something sought may well have been, the rest of the quartet that wasn't there! Nice try, but I don't know that a sax/drums duo works unless the tune or the improv are approached in an entirely different way than here (let's not bring up Coltrane/Ali's Interstellar Space, as it isn't germane).
Switching to tenor as Rieu does on the other sax/drums duet, "Roja" fares better as the sheer volume potential of the larger instrument is higher. Mind you, Rieu is always coy and insightful, witty and reflective. Like most artists, his efficacy rises and falls according to his tools and his accompaniment.
The trios with the masterful Bourassa and bassist Guy Boisvert and the duos between Rieu and Bourassa are this CD's strong suit. Boisvert's distant whirling on his upright's strings make a strange if evocative backdrop to open and close "Song H," for example.
Christian Lagueux's measured congas dot the rests on that one while Boisvert plucks, Bourassa cocks an eyebrow, and Rieu supplies the regret. Beautiful. Sadly Lagueux is only to be found elsewhere on the bouncy title piece (a duet with Rieu), but it's worth waiting for.
All music is made from other music, I'd say, unless you're talking about Xenakis or Dumitrescu (in their case it would seem more to have been theoretical mathematics).
Since Shorter does not record as much as we'd like him to do of late, 'I' Is Memory will fill the gap nicely. Try it on your CD player with your earphones on, walking about a neighborhood you haven't lived in for a while. The longer ago, the better.
|John Holmes, Dan Morris, Joe Berardi, Dutz, David Shafer sitting in for Holmes on "Wilted Salad in the Parlour" and "Noodle Chest"|
I learned early that everything can be made of something else (unless you're talking about one of the string consistories from which standard matter derives, according to the theorists).
It was the first time that I heard the Yardbirds' single "Over under Sideways Down" at my college radio station and some wizened upperclassman informed me that it was based on an Irish reel such as the old men in the pubs on upper Broadway played on the nights we weren't allowed in. We would pound on the tables, we would demand Led Zeppelin, we would assume the bodhrans were something to pour bad American beer into and drink from. Imagine my surprise.
All that very far aside, the idea that new can arrive from repositionings of the existing has stuck with me. In Brad Dutz's quartet we hear almost every possible percussion gambit or influence or strategy, however abstruse, and there's a singular unity to the music anyway.
Dutz is credited with composing nine of the fourteen pieces here, but I can't come across much structure, and thanks to the foursome's alacrity, who needs it? It's their ability to come up with something surprising every three or five seconds, and it's all lots of fun.
You won't remember a thing after it's over, but I wonder if that is not a correlative of Eric Dolphy's classic comment about when one hears music it's gone in the air immediately thereafter. One can never recapture it again, he said. So possibly it wasn't entirely necessary that it linger in the mind either, as long as you're enjoying it.
Not much actual obliteration occurs here other than that of time itself, and the highly improvisatory feel of what's going on (the seemingly inevitableness of "Moist Desert" is an example, with its temple gongs and pots of dried beans sloshing about) probably puts that across.
Minute by minute (theoretically speaking) the patterings and clankings (a certain gamelan feel here, a steppe-like air elsewhere) appear and vanish, making the moment's texture all-important.
And what textures! If you remember Steve Tibbetts's ECM acoustic/electric guitar albums in which he dueled silence and Marc Anderson, and you wished mightily that Anderson could have his own show, this will do.
"Many Whistles" gives one to think of some ancient Anasazi Indian hoedown, but for the mourning dove that keeps interrupting (are they endemic to the American Southwest as well? I've got one living in a tree near my apartment in the Bronx), while the opening twelve-minute tour de force "Whatever Happened to the Station Wagon?" recalls Thai master drummers succumbing at their drum kits to too many drinks with little umbrellas in them, especially when the rhythmic pulse, such as it is, begins to fog and wrench itself out of true.
Oh, yes, let's not forget the traffic jam that begins to pile up in the studio ( or is it an etude for car horns and blown noses?) following directly thereafter.
But again that's the beauty of this CD: it exists in the moment only. You can walk out of the room, come back in five minutes and not have missed anything. Frankly, it's a sight more successful in its ambient quotient than, say, any amount of Brian Eno's mid-nineteen-eighties experiments bearing the actual name.
Delightful absurdities and Jean Tinguely machineries assemble and disassemble themselves throughout this CD. The beginning of "Salt for the Losers" puts me in mind of rhinoceroses (rhinoceri?) waiting for lunch on the African veldt. "Many Bowls and Mallets" recalls in its humorous runs of notes some of Frank Zappa's writing for marimba and Synclavier. "Charred Broilers, Chilled Boilers" contains a wild four-hand duel for wind chimes, and "Dry Steam" nearly closes the CD with a vaguely South African patina, but that may be because we've visited everybody else on the planet already.
Pretty amazing CD, and you haven't heard anything similar in some time. Will their next include Martian and Venusian rhythmic tactics?
By Ken Egbert
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