In a discographical sense Dom Minasi has had a tough go of it. So much so that in the space of a single week and a pair of sessions at CIMP's Spirit Room he was able to double the size of his recording resumé. His first efforts believe it or not were for the Blue Note label back in the mid-70s and by every indication seem to have been fairly trivial affairs. On this date as a leader and on the other as a sideman with saxophonist Blaise Siwula (also reviewed in this month's issue of AAJ) he reveals that the intervening decades of silence have served him well in honing a formidable technique on guitar.
Perhaps it's the inclusion of several standards and the presence of Bocchicchio's supple bass, but Minasi's work here is less abrasive and rambunctious than the side he shows on the Siwula date, though this is a relative comparison considering his usual celerity on the strings. Throughout the program he works his frets like a man possessed with an unsettling case of inertial dementia, peeling off tangled lines in steady metallic cascades. Even at the flushed febrile pace he sets for himself his compact clusters of notes and shimmering arpeggiated bursts remain intact and prod his partners out of a subtle rhythmic role. Bocchicchio and Rosen welcome the encouragement and build striated streams of energy that support even Minasi's most flurried string-torquing improvisations.
Most of pieces and particularly those penned by Minasi are oddly lyrical in flavor, but in a strangely bend and irregular way. The underlying lyricism is never completely usurps the group sound, but always seems to be an underlying element even during the players' most agitated exchanges. By comparison, the standards are often largely unrecognizable with regards to expected melody and harmony and Minasi seems to derive feverish pleasure from dissecting them with his nearly subsonic strums. "Ballad for Carol" breaks out of this mold and is the most balladic piece in terms of structure. Minasi's opaque chords and Bocchicchio's orotund bow mesh in a soothing continuity above Rosen's mellow cymbal and snare accents making it one of the most engaging pieces on the disc.
Conversely "Bass Relief," where as the title suggests Bocchicchio lays out, is one of the most forgettable; a rambling discourse of spiky, oscillating tonal clusters and diffuse drum patterns that never seems to go anywhere. Minasi regains footing on the closing reworking of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To which harbors some unexpected menace in Bocchicchio's brooding bow work. This final piece also profits from a shrewd percussion interlude by Rosen that brings the trio full circle for an appealing close. Minasi may have been on the outside looking in for much of his career, but this date suggests that his place as a major player may have finally arrived.
Personnel: Dom Minasi: guitar; Michael Bocchicchio: bass; Jay Rosen: drums.