Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brian Drye's Bizingas: The Heft of Rock; the Musical Girth of Jazz

Trombonist Brian Drye shows convincingly in his debut Bizingas ((NCM East 40130) that the power and excitement of contemporary rock can be joined with the compositional and improvisational inventiveness of the best contemporary jazz.

The quartet Brian put together and the roles that each play are critical to the success of the outing.There is of course Brian on trombone (and keys) and Kirk Knuffke on cornet. The horns function as a two-man frontline part of the time, playing written parts that suggest the entire history of jazz and the many brilliant moments such tandems have produced from NOLA to Duke and through to today. That too is the case with their improvisational interactions, which are worth the price of admission alone. Guitar and drums-percussion sometimes split off and function as a rhythm team, or take part in a four-way dialog, provide rock and avant riff power, and/or add their texture to the mix. Brian's piano and synth give the ensemble a fifth voice that can provide foundational chording or weave lines in and out of the mix, coupling improvisationally-compositionally with a myriad of possible instrument combinations.

The compositions are quite expressive and weighty. There are new wrinkles on out rock-funk, shred jazz, contrapuntal form, and thematic through-ness and/or written-improvisational vehicles where the two elements are integrated so thoroughly that there is an of-the-moment immediacy to all of it. Brian writes some really interesting lines that are not in the least bit hackneyed, but totally fresh and inventive.

Then there are the musical personalities of the players, which are distinctive. Brian the full-bodied limber trombonist with ideas to spare; Kirk Knuffke and his coronet, who manages to sound both timeless and very contemporary. Jonathan Goldberger plays some outstanding electric guitar, subtly free at one point, powerfully crank-rocked another. Ches Smith on drums has been turning in performances lately that put him among the best of the "new" players. He is versatile and knows all about the deeper sound production aspects of the drum kit. And he can be anchor-propulsive.

On just about any level you can think of--compositionally, conceptually, improvisationally, freely, propulsively--this is outstanding music. It bodes well for where the new jazz is and will be in the future. I mean that. Thank you Brian Drye. Give us some more, please. We need a second helping!

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