Ches Smith: Congs for Brums (2006)
This solo percussion set by Ches Smith offers ten songs full of depth and imagination. About half of the tunes on Congs for Brums feature the vibraphone, the other half drums and percussion; some songs include both. Smith wrote all the vibraphone pieces on piano and his drum pieces borrow ideas from the vibraphone songs, allowing the tunes to play off one another and create a uniquely beautiful cohesion.
Several songs deserve mention, including the first cut, "The Clarinet in B Flat." This haunting vibraphone piece is full of airy individual notes and sparkling runs. Smith is extremely sensitive to space, and he allows the notes to expand to their full range. The spareness of the piece shows why the vibes can be such a mesmerizing instrument.
"Homemade Posi, a drum/percussion piece, features agile stickwork and interesting rhythms. Again Smith allows for the strength of individual notes, with some cymbal hits expanding like a drop of water spreading out in a pond. "Homemade Counterpoint, another vibes tune, is a beautifully intricate piece where Smith creates layers by making full use of the vibes' long fadeouts.
One of the advantages of solo music is that the listener can really hear each instrument's subtleties. On Congs for Brums each hit of the mallet and every brushstroke and cymbal hit are given space to breathe. And yet Smith is also a very forceful player, particularly on drums, and the way he interweaves gentleness and intensity is what makes the recording so absorbing.
Track Listing: The Clarinet in B flat; My Motherfuckin' Roda!; Metal Vacation; Mental Vacation; Homemade Posi; Homemade Counterpoint; Don't Sweat the Smalls; Man P; My Last Coke; The Contra Alto Clarinet in E flat.
Personnel: Ches Smith: vibraphone, drums, percussion.