Johnny DeBlase plays bass for a couple of thrash-jazz bands, including one of my personal favorites, Many Arms. One of main reasons Many Arms is because high on my list is alongside a virtuosic guitarist in Nick Millevoi is his counterpart on electric bass. When digging inside the ruckus of their recent self-titled album for Tzadik, I found DeBlase to be so kinetic and yet so connected to what Millevoi and drummer Ricardo Lagomasino were doing, I mused that “the next time I hear Yes, I’m more apt to think of Chris Squire as DeBlase slowed down.”
DeBlase has his own band, too, the Johnny DeBlase Quartet, and here he switches to a standup bass and has a trumpet player, Joe Moffett, in his group. If you think this means the JDbQ is his straight jazz excursion, think again: Composites is just as outside the norm and fearless as his electric projects. On this outing, Chris Squire comparisons are out, Harrison Bankhead comparisons are in.
Millevoi is along for the ride, too, as is drummer Dave Flaherty, and the four rip through two long form DeBlase compositions in about thirty one minutes flat. Similar to what Many Arms did for their last album, each composition is actually a bunch of micro-compositions meshed together, moving from one idea to another. Unlike Many Arms, however, JDbQ creates a noise that’s not as dense, and there’s ample room for the songs to breathe.
Moffett gives Millevoi a musical sparring partner, but even as they trade licks, the rumbling underneath by DeBlase and Flaherty attracts attention. DeBlase gets extended time to articulate the elusive melody on “First Form,” after which Moffett and Flaherty go free form together. Eventually, the song moves into swing, and both of the front line players engage into unison lines before peeling off into individual expressions. Moffett evokes Booker Little, while Millevoi evokes the Millevoi in Many Arms, creating sinister noies foreign to the straight jazz percolating underneath.
“Second Form” runs shorter, beginning as a faster version of the avant bop-isms that ended the first form. This time, Millevoi and Moffett improvise not only in succession but also in parallel with each other, listening to each other but not playing too close together. Throughout the song, the rhythm section provides a solid bedrock on which the two launch multiple attacks of varying sorts.
From what I can gather out of Composites, the Johnny DeBlase Quartet represents DeBlase’s own conception of jazz, which involves heaping helpings of freedom and stringing together a trail of good ideas into a single, greater one. DeBlase once again adapts his approach to accomodate the complex task in from of him, and makes everyone around him sound better.
Composites was self-released released June 5. Visit Johnny DeBlase’s website for more info.
Purchase: Johnny DeBlase Quartet – Composites
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