Dom Minasi: Quick Response
“ Minasi has taken the concept of style much further: he has paired down and stripped his playing to the point that through his guitar he presents us with pure music, as vulnerable as it is egoless. ”
Wow. Dom Minasi, the guitar meister famous (amongst others) for enthusiastically ripping to shreds various Duke tunes, made a straight-ahead record. With a Hammond B-3, no less.
Or didn't he?
Well, yes and no. Yes, on the surface, the tunes follow the well-trodden path of your regular bop session: on hard swinging jazz grooves you get a few standards and some original themes, with a blues thrown in for good measure; solos are neatly laid out over the changes, fours are being traded and the like.
But, no, if we look past those superficial stylistic traits, Quick Response is not your everyday traditionalist hard bop outing.
In the last decade or so, the discussion on jazz has so much focused on traditionalismright or wrong, that we tend to forget that actually bop used to be a means of expression for adventurous musical minds. Since it became the main staple in the jazz programs on various schools, bop has gotten formularized to the point that you now can buy computer programs that actually generate "correct" solos. In turn, a level of invention in real-world playing is often on display that does not reach very far beyond a Band-in-a-Box solo.
What Quick Response as a group effort shows us in the first place, is that you can make a straight-ahead record the old-fashioned way: creating vibrant and buoyant music in the moment by relying on your own style rather than sticking to the formula, making the question what's right or wrong irrelevant. Both Minasi and meaty-toned altoist Mark Whitecage contribute solos to the session that far supercede rehashing the tradition. The equally empathic and energetic interplay between drummer John Bollinger and organist Kyle Koehler supplies a strong foundation, while Koehler's pianistic approach is refreshingly free of B-3 blues clichés.
But it is in the singularity of Minasi's guitar style that this record really shines. From the opener "What is This Thing Called Love," the hallmarks of Minasi's particular style jump out of the grooves: his playful and adventurous style of chord substitutions (check out the fast moving minor 7 chords in the head of "What is This Thing" or the total disassembly of "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise") and his equally distinctive soloing, characterized by his trademark weaving of long and super fast runs. While remotely related to the Django Reinhardt-style of running up and down the guitar neck, they are sculpted with an Ornette Coleman-ish sense of melody, rather than sheer chromatism. And, as far out as those lines may wander, they are never detached from a deep understanding of the harmonic sensibilities of the jazz tradition.
Instead of respectfully patching together a mode of expression from different influences within the perceived limits of your chosen instrument (often referred too as "eclectic"), Minasi has taken the concept of style much further: he has paired down and stripped his playing to the point that through his guitar he presents us with pure music, as vulnerable as it is egoless. While rooted in the jazz tradition, it is also uncluttered by various guitar-isms. If Minasi proves anything with this CD, it is that the singularity and unmistakable identity of his playing only are matched by its being so universally applicable. That is the hallmark of a great player.
Track Listing: 1. What is This Thing Called Love 2. Feels Like Rain in China 3. For My Father 4. Quick Fesponse 5. I Who Have Nothing 6. Into the Night 7. Dizzy Lizzie 8. When Your Dreams Come True 9. Softly as in a Morning Sunrise
Personnel: Dom Minasi (guitar), Kyle Khoeler (organ), Mark Whitecage (alto saxophone), John Bollinger (drums).