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Monday, September 16, 2013

González, González & González

Type "Dennis González" in the search engine on the right of this blog, and you will find more than fifteen albums reviewed. Somehow he dropped away from our attention lately, not because he stopped releasing albums, but possibly because we're always looking for new stuff. González is great, with a kind of warm signature sound on his trumpet and with compositions that are equally identifiable as his, because of their melancholy nature combined with rhythmic drive, with an accessible sound that's progressive at the same time : "avant-garde neo impressionism" in his own words. Apart from his music, he has two fantastic sons with whom he appears to have a very close relationship and whose role in their trio "Yells At Eels" - apart from their other musical projects - becomes increasingly dominant, with Stefan on drums and Aaron on bass, a tight trio that's open to invite new musicians on their albums.

Dennis González - Bandoleros En Gdansk (1 Car Garage Records, 2012) ***

"Bandolieros En Gdansk" is a vinyl 12" 45 RPM collaboration with Polish musicians Wojtek Mazolewski on bass and Marek Pospieszalski on tenor. "The Polish Spirit" is vintage González, a slow piece with yearning Latin phrases in the trumpeter's solo, yearning Polish frases in the sax-player's solo and solid rhythmic underpinning. The title track is a short piece with changing tempi constructing as a kind of collage, with both horns dialoguing over the frenzy of the basses and drums. The final track is almost swing era fun, with the tenor and trumpet again engaging in really great dialogues.

Dennis González - Wind Streaks In Syrtis Major (Tree Fall Sounds, 2012) ***

We find the same quintet back on a 7' vinyl release of performance recorded at the same period. The music consists of three short tracks of intense interaction, full of self-confidence. It is intenser and somehow more in a free mode than "Bandoleros". The album is equally enjoyable and fun. Again, it doesn't add much new musical journeys to the trumpeter's overall output, but it all sounds so much more liberated and solid. You can only wonder why the two short releases where not put into one longer album, but I guess the mysteries of record production are as bizarre as anything else in this world.

You can listen and download from Bandcamp.

Dennis González & Yells At Eels - Colorado At Clinton (Ayler, 2013) ****

We find González father and sons back on this excellent album with now Aakash Mittal on alto saxophone, a former youth friend of drummer Stefan in elementary school in Dallas whom they lost track of when the family moved. But it's a small world, and many years laters they reconnect, with Mittal having studied with Rudresh Mahanthappa, and no better way of celebrating the reunion than by playing music together and recording it.

The album is great, among the very best of Yells At Eels, with the typical sweeping themes, the rock-influenced rhythm section and the expanded soloing. All tracks are new, with the exception of the third "Wind Streaks In Syrtis Major", which also appeared on the vinyl with the same title. "Shadows" is a slow piece, offering the saxophonist space for contemplative soloing, with subtle accompaniment by the brothers.

The real treat is "Shades Of India", in which Mittal really demonstrates his skill and his apprenticeship with Mahanthappa, with soaring soloing in Indian scales. The composition starts slowly, with bass and drums, then Mittal leads the ever intensifying phrases, shadowed by Dennis in non-Indian scales for a long intro, then half-way the rhythm picks up, the volume increases and we move into full improvisation mode after a few repetitions of the unison theme.

"Constellations On The Ground" is slow and extremely beautiful, with trumpet and sax creating sensitive interweaving of sounds, with Aaron's bass on the foreground, first pizzi, then arco, offering depth and this touch of magnificence which the piece requires.

But it is not the band's style to end in melancholy, but with high intensity powerplay. Stefan very much leads this end track, "Dokonori Shīīto", demonstrating some sustained high energy playing, over which first Mittal, then Dennis González then Aaron play expansive solos, with the whole structure nicely coming together again at the very end.

In short, a well-balanced album, reinforcing the band's quality, with again the added value of its openness to guest musicians and new sounds. The band has its own easily identifiable voice, yet again there are differences.

Can be purchased from

Mazolewski González Quintet - Shaman (ForTune, 2013) ****

On this latest album, we find Dennis González back in Poland, without his sons, but again with Marek Pospieszalski on tenor and Wojtek Mazolewski on bass, and with Joanna Duda on piano and Jerzy Rogiewicz on drums completing the quintet.

The first track, "Suite", is a fantastic piece, tribal, reminding us somewhat of Art Ensemble of Chicago freedom and vision, with ambiant sounds, spiritual and compelling. The second track is one of Polish master composer Krzysztof Komeda, and then also one of his best known pieces, "Astigmatic", of which the theme offers the introduction to some sequenced improvising by the various musicians.

Two tracks are penned by González and known from previous albums, "Matter At Hand"(also on his "Dance Of The Soothsayer's Tongue" and "Boston Project") and "Hymn For Julius Hemphill" (also on "The Desert Wind" and "Boston Project"). The two other tracks, "Sztandar" and "Pushing The Car" are written by Mazolewski. The interplay is really strong and the improvisations excellent, and the best results are to be found on the more open pieces, despite the value of the compositions.

In overview, you could get the impression that Dennis González, now that he has created and solidly established his sound, his kind of music, which is more than most musicians can say, rather than further exploring or deepening it, he's in a phase of sharing and supporting others, exposing his music to other influences and broadening it. Both are viable options of course, and the albums above are obviously worth looking for, but my preference still goes to his more epic albums "Nile River Suite", "Dance of The Soothsayer's Tongue" and "Hymn For Tomasz Stanko".

In any case, excellent music and fans will not be disappointed.


allan said...

Dennis Gonzalez is a trumpeter/cornetist who I greatly admire and respect. Despite his hearing problems he continues to consistently produce wonderfully rewarding and accessible music -- have a browse of his website
His output is truly prolific, but my personal favourites remain the 4 early Silkheart recordings (a bit pricey these days but well worth seeking out) and his superb "Hymn For The Perfect Heart Of A Pearl"