Bobby Previte – Pan Atlantic (2009)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Previte has from the start been a “go it alone” kind of guy and found success taking that route, a remarkable achievement considering that drummers usually have to first make their mark as a member of a band. He’s gotten his due in a wide variety of ways: as a sessionist, a composer and bandleader. However, his wide-open musical outlook dictates that he leads several distinct bands to bring forth all the facets of his ideas. Empty Suits, Latin for Travelers, and the Voodoo Orchestra are past Previte-led projects. Previte also sets up temporary alliances with other artists who share his vision for pragmatic music that freely traverses the territories of rock and jazz and whatever else comes to mind. He’s hooked up with like-minded musicians such as Marco Benevento, Marc Ducret and Jamie Saft. We earlier gave a brief nod toward one of his fascinating Groundtruther collaborations with Charlie Hunter, and I regret not have taken the time to give a more in-depth analysis of it, but I’m not about to make that same mistake for Previte’s most recent project, Pan Atlantic.

Pan Atlantic is the name of Previte’s latest band as well as his latest album out since November 1. Much as Keith Jarrett in the 1970’s formed a band out of some of the best emerging jazz musicians from Europe, so did Previte felt inspired to mine the rich talent of the Old World. Previte found his own “European quartet,” or rather, “quintet”: Gianluca Petrella (trombone), Wolfang Puschnig (alto sax, baritone sax), Benoît Delbecq (Fender Rhodes), Nils Davidsen (electric bass) and Previte on drums.

Previte’s Pan Atlantic goes for a big sound exploring space and rudimentary electronic textures, exploring grooves more so than simply performing pieces. You might think of it as a sort of miniaturized version of his eleven-piece Bitches Brew tribute band Voodoo Orchestra, but this time, the songs are all Previte’s. The vibe says “1969” but the ideas put into the songs belie the outward impression that these are jams. Moreover, Previte and Co., make the spaces between the notes count as much as the notes themselves.

Take the first track, the groove-trance “Deep Lake,” for instance. Davidson’s pulse is relentless, bleating out a single note for much of the song are rarely altering his oscillation. But Previte is able to create a shuffling beat around it and Delbecq adds his shimmering hues only where it’s needed. That frees up Petrella and Puschnig to counterpoint in a variety of ways: pairing up on the thematic line, and soloing with little restaints. At one point when Puschnig takes a stroll outside, Previte follows him right along but the bass pulse maintains its slow throb, a Dolphy-esque marriage of the spooky and the explosive.

Previte dictates the tempo on “Stay On Path,” rocking hard in the intro and toward the end, but mixing it up with jungle rhythms the fuel his friends from the Continent. “The Eternity Clause” overlays a swinging horn line on top of Previte’s elliptical funk figure, and Delbecq is given lots of room to roam. The doom-laden “Destruction Layer” is built around a bass/horn theme that quickens toward the end, line a coin settling down after being dropped on a table top. “Pan Atlantic,” the song, also works creatively with motifs, this time using a cascading and descending series of chords from Petrella and Puschnig, clashing against Delbecq’s rough-edged electric piano. Petrella’s echoed trombone set against Delbecq’s gurgling background sets the tone for “Question Mark,” alternating with Puschnig’s punchier counter-mood.

The last track “Veltin” is Previte alone…on Fender Rhodes. Two notes repeated endlessly as a simple ostinato, as Previte’s right hand meanderings occasionally break the monotony. A similar concept to Bill Evans’ brilliant “Peace Piece,” but it comes off too flaccid and I can’t tell where he’s going with this.

That one misstep does serve to highlight how much Previte thrives off the energy of others; the fresh, divergent perspectives coming from the other side of the Atlantic helps Previte’s Pan Atlantic to attain an ideal of unconventional jazz with the perspectives of a couple of continents. Combining the brute power of rock and the verve of post-bop, Pan Atlantic avoids being just any fusion band. The experimental bent of Bobby Previte all but assures that.

Pan Atlantic is a product of Previte’s own new label, Rank Hypocrisy, and is distributed digitally by Palmetto and physically by Italian-based Auand Records. Visit Bobby’s website at, and his Youtube channel here.

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