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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dennis González - Renegade Spirits (Furthermore, 2009) ****½

Gongs, bells, shakers, cymbals, pao de chuva (a Brazilian shaker withseashell fragments and pebbles), balafon, agogo bells, congas, udu drum, two drums, bass, sax and cornet. You might expect some Latin American fiesta with these instruments, yet it's not. You get Dennis González' Yells At Eels, with his sons Stefan and Aaron, and with Tim Green on sax and no one less than Famoudou Don Moye on percussion. Like on many of González' albums, the music free and melancholy at the same time, with subtle themes and lots of space for his fellow musicians. Half the tracks are group improvisations, four are compositions by the leader and the last track is by the Art Ensemble's percussionist. The composed pieces set the scene, set the color for González expansive and spiritual musical vision full of soul and warmth, at the same time warming up the band members for the improvisations, that are driven by the many joyful percussion instruments over which the sax and trumpet blow their free-spirited phrases, almost in a minimalist way. I'm sure there are many, many musicians who wish they could compose a piece as compelling as the title track, full of hypnotic rhythms, a beautiful improvised theme by Green, haunting arco bass, and trumpet in counterpoint. But here it is created spontaneously, out of nothing, yet rock solid and extremely eloquent. As said earlier, the great thing about González and family, is that they love the music they play, they love how it sounds, what it conveys, the interplay, the fun, the shared feelings, the joint heritage of African music, bop, Latin and free improvisation all mixing together as if it was all meant to be, regardless of what the critics and art intellectuals might think or say. This is music that lives, and breathes, and with a heart that pumps and feels. Deeply so.

Watch a Youtube clip of the band's rehearsals and recording at the Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas. As usual with many Youtube clips, the audio and visual quality isn't excellent, it's high time to create a jazz video web with high quality recorded performances.

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© stef