Click here to [close]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dennis González Galore!

Dallas-based trumpet-player Dennis González will always be one of my favorites for this warm and solid tone, his openness of mind and the emotional power of his music. With the exception of "Paura", his music is always very rooted in bop, but then of the free-er and sometimes the harder kind, while remaining open to more rock-influenced adventures, the latter possibly under the influence of his two musical sons with whom he forms the trio "Yells At Eels".

This year González seems to be very productive, releasing in quick succession his third, fourth and fifth album of the year. Dennis González has the incredible knack of making his albums, even the more free ones, accessible, recognizable too, yet while keeping a fresh approach, re-inventing himself, remaining open to the rest of the world. And you get the impression that the trumpeter gets as much pleasure from listening to his fellow musicians, giving them the floor and enjoying their music, as much as playing himself. A true musician. No wonder he has played with so many of today's top musicians.

The Great Bydgoszcz Concert
(Ayler, 2009) ****

On this album the aforementioned trio (Dennis González on trumpet, Aaron González on bass, and Stefan González on drums) becomes a quartet with Portuguese Rodrigo Amado on tenor, a musician who we've reviewed before and with whom González already played in Amado's Lisbon Improvisation Players. The music here shows the wide variety of the band, together with their respect for the masters: Ornette Coleman's joyful "Happy House" gets a fine rendition, and so does Krzystof Komeda's sad "Litania", at the same time offering a great illustration of the musical span of this album, varying between the cinematic, the melancholy, the boppish and the free, but always with that modern infusion added by the González sons. Stefan González' long opening track "Crow Soul" has the kind of hypnotic rock rhythm that reminds a little of Terje Rypdal's Odissey. A great album.

Songs Of Early Autumn (NoBusiness, 2009) ****

"Songs Of Early Autumn" is possibly the best adapted for this season of the year, and it was recorded at an improvised meeting in the not yet heated (and therefore chilly) home of Joe Morris, who plays bass on this album. González and him are joined by this other bass-player turned tenor saxophonist Timo Shanko, and with Luther Gray on drums. Morris and González had played before on "No Photograph Available" and apparently the collaboration was worth a follow-up. Three of the eight tracks are compositions by González, all the other pieces are group improvisations in the real free (bop) tradition. The album starts highly rhythmic, uptempo with steady bass vamps and drum lines, and both horn players get all the space they need to enjoy us with their skills (and I laughed out loud because it is such fun at moments). But the album is balanced, with slower, more moody pieces, allowing the horn players to show another perspective, and I must say that Shanko outdoes himself, reaching the improvisational emotional power of González, howling, screeching, wailing, going deep, deep, deep, and making this again a great album.

A Matter of Blood (Furthermore, 2009) ****

There was already a hint to Tomasz Stanko in playing "Litania" on "The Great Bydgoszcz Concert", but on this album González moves more into the great Polish trumpeter's musical territory, also illustrated by the band's line-up. He plays C trumpet and B cornet, with Reggie Workman on bass, Curtis Clark on piano, and Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. And this band is truly excellent for this sad and dark post-boppish album. The playing is versatile, crisp, sophisticated, almost in the ECM way, with lots of open space, shifts in intensity and room for González to move in, yet so does the band. The long tracks are connected by some musical capsules of improvisation by each of the band members. But the long tracks are of course what capture the interest: their length provides ample time for spatious and careful elaboration of the themes, creating depth and a great sense of space at the same time. The music lifts you up, even if it's not joyful by nature.

So, you will ask me, which one should I buy?

Well, I will answer you, you make the selection, or buy all three.

These are three different albums, all three with their value and musical angle. But all three of a high quality, all three with excellent musicians who understand the musical project, improvise creatively and sensitively, and interact well. All the rest is a matter of personal preference.

Buy from Instantjazz.

© stef