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Dennis Chambers / Jeff Berlin / Dave Fiuczynski / T. Lavitz

Boston T Party

(Tone Center; US: 31 Jan 2006; UK: 20 Feb 2006)

I’m here following one lead of one of the first major jazz writers, and magazine editors, the late Albert J. McCarthy, whose long deceased Jazz Monthly is one publication in the field whose back issues are still of considerable interest. This is to say that you’re here reading a review written by somebody not working in the centre of any of his own regular and preferred fields. There will be no recommendation one way or another, no reference to whether or not I’d buy the disc, but at least also none of the shorthand commonly used by people who discuss such things in excessively familiar terms.


Lots of reviews rely on a jargon of shorthand, which ought to serve brevity. Shorthand jargons can work because the people to whom they’re addressed have various expectations which allow them to decipher what they read. Without necessarily involving any standard language or dialect as used in most other transactions, a reviewer’s dialect can say something about some music and be understood by some people who know what to expect of the jargon and the music.


Here I can talk only of a firework display of electronic noises, or sounds, and then—talking of the opening track on this CD—a burst of music charging forward, organ and bass and guitar and drums and something which sounds like electric guitar (but electronically altered) with still a few fireworks going off, a sort of music of the fireworks emerging either at the end of a short display or during a pause after which there will be more of a display.


I can talk of riffing blues guitar and organ emerging from a soup, or some such metaphor for the electronically produced music. Whether as a whole in which everything blends, or in the solos which emerge from it, either identifiable with strings or drums or an organ, or with no obvious non-electronic instrumental reference, everything’s aimed at viscerally emotive effects.  It’s a matter of not letting the excitement, or expression of generalised mood, fall off or drop. These guys play on their pulses, and rather than settling into one or another line or specifiable range of development the music can change or move in an enormous range of ways.


The demands of suspense and tension, release of tension, and sheer novelty, are wide. Sometimes the music does follow through a restricted range of development consistently, and sometimes there is repetition, which presumably works on the expectation of unpredictable contrast. One or more guys changes tack, changes key, changing the settings on whatever he is playing (just as an acoustic composer changes instrumentation, or say a piano improviser varies texture); and the others have to respond.  A couple of repetitions too many and the repeated passage has the added characteristic of pointlessness. So you can’t have that.


Playing stuff on those lines can be fun, especially when little harmonic, technical or mathematical puzzles are thrown up, even chances to slip in quotes. Track 3, “Around About Way”, begins with New Orleans drumming and more rather than less (given the tonal shifting possible) Hammond B-3 and bass guitar, then more repetitive figures with wa-wa guitar over automatic pilot bass and drums, Fiuczynski wailing and then the keyboards branching into pastiche Bach, imitation piano, and the organ playing dancingly inventive stuff for a little while. There’s a bit more piano, and in the end I got more curious about how the sounds were made, rather than interesting in the sounds as music. Maybe one’s not supposed to ask too many questions of that sort?


“Around About Way” starts with bell impressions, some flutter, and more wawa-ing, and the fourth track, “I Hate the Blues . . . (But Here’s One Anyway)”  starts with blues guitar, till that becomes sanctified, gospel-music-like, with organ: a cousin of the old song ““Georgia On My Mind”.  I can’t really sort out messages from different tracks; I do find the music as well as the instrumentation a tad generalised. Track five has a ballad sort of intro, but is there anything more to the music-making than a desire to do something new, or newer?


The sixth track, “Emotional Squalor”, is a sort of Irish jig with heavy backbeat on drums, and before this review becomes mechanical I shall fast forward to the final track, with its descending bass figure, whose instrumentation I’ve not quite managed to work out as yet.  There’s bass guitar, organ, and after some intense squeezing noises on guitar there’s another Irish jig sort of theme.


The blurb refers to “a jazz fusion tour de force”, but it would sound like a jam to anybody restricting themselves to such older terminology as I have here. No lack of vigour, as can be recognised even by someone born with hearing equipment installed which never became at home with talk of a performer’s “lush pads, funky B 3 work and awesome guitaristic moog chops”. Other commendations talk of “conversation”, which I grant readily, even if the language is remote to me. Or is it languages or a melange of languages? Metalanguage? Melanguage?


Lush pads, though?  Suggests a tiger? The guy who has these things, T. Lavitz, (the T can’t really be for Tiger?) is a storming Hammond organist with a line on ersatz guitar which certainly doesn’t disgrace him when he’s jamming alongside maestro Fiuczynski; and he also has a healthily wide palette and appreciation of spatial-aural perspective when building cathedral vaults or excavating grand openings or canyons as preludes to or even venues for the performance of the more standard instrumental business which never gets worked out that far before the electronics are taking it seven different ways for Saturday again. Dennis Chambers is welcome as the very opposite of a mechanical drummer, Jeff Berlin keeps things moving on bass guitar, and Maestro Fiuczynski’s several axes are described as “fretless, fretted and ¼ tone guitar”. And the ninth track, “Constant Comment”, has suggested to me that I might give this an ungenerous rating, since I prefer that by such a margin to some others. It’s not as experimental as this review, and it’s maybe none the worse for that.

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