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Terry Bozzio is perhaps best known as a chops-laden drummer who's more at home in the pop/rock and fusion worlds. Chamber Works, which teams him with Netherlands' Metropole Orkestlike guitarist Mike Keneally's similar collaboration on last year's The Universe Will Providedemonstrates that Bozzio is about much, much more. A member of the late Frank Zappa's band from 1976 onwards, Bozzio was required to deal with complex compositions that were at times almost classical in their orchestral complexity: no surprise, given Zappa's keen interest in avant-garde 20th Century composers like Edgar Varèse.
Bozzio's tenure with Zappa may have cultivated a special interest in longer-form orchestral works, or it may already have been there. Regardless, Chamber Works reveals a side to the drummer that will only come as no surprise to those most intimately familiar with his career. For the rest, it's ongoing evidence that musicians often have more widespread tastes than their known work would indicatetastes that may insidiously sneak their way into artists' overall approach or influence it an a far more overt fashion.
Comprised of two extended pieces (the forty-minute "Five Movements for Drum Set and Orchestra and the thirteen-minute "Opus One: Self Portrait With Scar ), the recording reveals Bozzio's clearest influence to be Stravinsky, with a sense of drama and dense orchestration that at times recalls "Le Sacre du Printemps or "Firebird Suite." Stravinsky, in ways that differentiated him from many of his contemporaries, could also be a surprisingly rhythmic composer, which would clearly appeal to a percussionist like Bozzio.
But while Bozzio's inherent rhythm-centricity imbues most of "Five Movements, he's also a richly melodic composer and player. It's rare to find classical pieces that utilize the conventional drum set, but Bozzio integrates it seamlessly, making it a natural adjunct, often melodically echoing the strings and horns. And while the drum set is front and centre on occasion, Bozzio's writing does not put percussion first; rather, it uses it as another palette to expand the already sweeping textural capabilities of Metropole's 49-piece Orkest. The fourth movement, the 7/4 "Moguli, evokes images of North Africa and the Middle East, while the final movement, "IBO, begins with a drum solo that combines rhythm and melody on the kit, leading into a propulsive finale where Peter Tiehuis' overdriven guitar fits surprisingly comfortably with the more conventional orchestral instruments.
"Opus One: Self Portrait With a Scar is a rich episodic study in counterpoint. In some passages percussion, flutes, horns, and strings build dense layers around each other, in others solo flute and oboe provide brief moments of respite. The piece covers a lot of territory during its brief thirteen minutes. Remarkable compositional depth from someone whom one might not expect to have the ability to conceptualize broader arcs with more complex narratives, based on his regular pursuits.
All too often percussionists are given short shrift as purely rhythmic players who don't understand the intricacies of melody and harmony. Chamber Works argues thatat least some of the timethis is faulty logic. In Bozzio's case, most definitely so.
Track Listing: Five Movements For Drum Set and Orchestra: Temenos, Hypnotic, Untitled, Moguli, IBO; Opus One: Self Portrait With Scar.
Personnel: Terry Bozzio: drum set, composer; Dick Bakker: conductor; Martin Fondse: orchestrator; First violins: Rami Koch, Arlia de Ruiter, Sarah Koch, Denis Koenders, Linda Dumessie, Erica Korthals Alte, David Pejinenborgh, Erik Kromhout; Second violins: Merijn Rombout, Lucja Gaasterland-Domski, Simone Vierstra, Wim Kok, Marianne van den Heuvel, Elina Koytcheva, Ruben Margarita; Violas: Mieke Honingh, Julia Jowett, Norman Jansen, Iris Schut, Prunella Pacey; Celli: Wim Grim, Annie Tangberg, Kepa Diego Cortazar; Basses: Eric Winkelmann, Arend Liefkes, Peter Baas; Flutes: Janine Abbas, Mariel van der Bos; Oboe: Willem Luyt; Saxophones/Clarinets: Marc Scholten, Christof May, Leo Janssen, Jos Bereen, Max Boeree; French Horns: Wim Timmermans; Trumpets: Wim Both, Jan Hollander, Henk Hejink, Toon de Gouw; Trombones: Bart van Lier, Hans Jurg Fink, Jan Elsink, Martin van der Berg; Guitar: Peter Tiehuis; Bass-guitar: Wilbrand Meischke; Percussion: Eddy Koopman, Murk Jiskoot; Drums: Arno van Nieuenhuize; Piano/keyboards: Hans Vroomans; Harp: Rosetty de Ruiter-Verwoerdt.