New York guitarist Dom Minasi inaugurated his CDM label in 2001 with the live record Takin' Out The Duke, a restless outburst of unbridled expressionism. It was a far cry from his two mid-'70s Blue Note records, which tread familiar ground and took smaller chances. He shook things loose again with Goin' Out Again, a similarly reckless but somewhat less satisfying affair, and finally he returns here with a renewed focus on the classic jazz sound. But the temptation to step "out" still lies around every corner.
Standards by Wayne Shorter and Thelonious Monk open and close the record, which otherwise consists of original compositions by Minasi. You'll recognize the themes and the harmonies of the familiar tunes, but the meat in between the buns is plenty wild. Toeing the line between swinging warmth and avant experimentation, Manasi manages to keep it all tucked very well together.
Credit cellist Tomas Ulrich for some of the most memorable melodies on the record and the sensitive way he manages a role tucked in between the other strings (Minasi and bassist Ken Filiano). He brings on Shorter's "Witch Hunt" and the blues piece "DMP," capturing the essence of swing while regularly straying outside the boundaries of conventional harmony. Ulrich uses timbral color as a way to shape his improvised lines, whether it be overtones in the midrange or stratospheric crests up top.
As usual, Minasi takes advantage of his clean, warm tone to bring substance to melodies; and as usual, he goes for broke when it comes to high-energy explosions. He's never been short on technique, and even on slow pieces like the ballad "My Soul Cries Out" he pops in a few rushed, jumpy ripples. But for the most part Minasi keeps it under wraps. The record closes on an unfortunate note with "Round Midnight," where Carol Mennie handles the vocals in a competent but rather flat fashion. Too much languid angst and not enough understated passion.
With Time Will Tell Dom Minasi has turned back toward the mainstream, but not far enough that most mainstream jazz lovers will likely dig the record in its entirety. There's too much dissonance and energy for that. With dedications to Coltrane and Dolphy, it's clear where the leader stands. Each of Dom Minasi's efforts has revealed a fresh aspect of his musical personality. This latest one certainly rewards attention, but to these ears it falls just a bit flat of the sparkling zing that the leader achieved when he took the Duke out. But who knows? Time Will Tell.
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Personnel: Dom Minasi: guitar; Carol Mennie: vocals; Ken Filiano: bass; Tomas Ulrich: cello; John Bollinger: