As an avant-jazz musical scholar, a composer, educator and flugabone (that’s a marching trombone to you marching band types) player, David Dominique is a guy full of ideas…the offbeat ones. Dominique has also composed and conducted for theater, and combined with a love for Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy, this goes a way toward understanding the dramatics and unexpected twists packed into his new release Ritual.
Ritual is also packed with energy that comes from the collective power of up to five wind instruments. Accompanying that flugabone is Brian Walsh (clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone sax), Gavin Templeton (alto sax, baritone sax, flute) and Joe Santa Maria (alto sax); Eric KM Clark adds a violin on a couple of tracks. There’s some soloing but they’re limited, because Dominique invested all the intrigue in his through-composed pieces and the arrangements. That’s where the Mingus/Dolphy comparison comes in.
The brassy expressions of a song like, say, “The Mulatto Shuffle” demonstrate the intricacies found in Dominique’s work. There’s a theme of sorts running through the song, but it’s been run through a meat grinder of tempo changes and melodic variations. Add a mid-section “conversation” among Dominique and three saxophones tossed in for good measure.
“Drunk Hump” is just as episodic, starting off slow like a dirge, then picks up pace. Just when you assume it’s run its course, it goes slow and speeds up all over again. Rambunctious like a Mostly Other People Do The Killing song, it evokes a smaller 30s jazz combo careening out of control.
And just because Dominique looks back several decades for inspiration doesn’t mean he’s shunning everything that’s come since then. Alex Noice’s searing electric guitar clashes against the brash horns on the Mingus carnival ride “Big Boned’d Jim,” and he’s adding trippy, cosmic electronics to go alongside Andrew Lessman’s antsy drums on “Ritual 2/Dirge.” “Ritual 4/Release” puts together old jazz horns, an avant-garde composition and a rumbling rock beat with a thunderous electric bass. Think of it as a rock song, but a rock song where the horns playing the riffs: knotty, dissonant riffs.
The brief segues typically wield the most theatrics. “Ritual/BDB,” “Money In Paradise 1″ and “Ritual 3/Hostage” function like the intrigue that hangs over between acts of a play.
Earlier this year, David Dominique composed and conducted an experimental live chamber score for a new theater project. I’d almost consider Ritual his second such project this year, as Ritual is a soundtrack just looking for the right stage production to go along with it. The script would have to be cheeky, unpredictable and engaging in order to fit to this music.
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