How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Scott Dubois thrives on mercuriality. The guitarist-composer writes and plays with a starkness and moodiness that suits him perfectly, as displayed on Banshees. The shifts of focus and varying tempos make the music as fluid and intriguing as a Dalì painting.
Dubois shows off his Metheny-influenced licks on “Mid to the West” and saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann shows immediately that he’s an acolyte from the upper register school of tenor playing. Thomas Morgan’s private-eye slick bass drives “Bend,” with Dubois playing lightning riffs and Ullmann shadowing him with harmonic effects on the soprano, frenetically exploring the full range of the horn from tip to tail. “Canaria” is built upon a barren landscape, with the irregular heartbeat of Morgan’s stark single-spaced pizzicato notes, Dubois’ somber guitar and Ullmann’s bass clarinet acting as a voice crying in the wilderness. The tune teems with desolation. “Old Man on Platform” has the same type of sadness initially, but broadens into a kind of suite, with movements ranging from more of Ullmann’s screeching to Dubois’ rock-influenced explorations. The faux military march pounded out by drummer Kresten Osgood, followed by the deep-voiced dialogue between Ullmann’s bass clarinet and Morgan’s bass, provide the satirical bent of “Mouse Song,” a tune in the vein of Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus.”
The foundation of Banshees revolves around wide-open yet thoughtfully modulated improvisation, Dubois masterfully negotiating the tightrope between free expression and anarchy. He brings all of these eclectic musical elements together to produce an impressive and memorable disc.
Track Listing: Mid to the West; Bend; Canaria; Inverse; Mouse Song; Old Man on Platform; Apparition.
Personnel: Scott DuBois: guitar; Gebhard Ullman: tenor and soprano saxes; bass clarinet; Thomas Morgan: bass; Kresten Osgood: drums.