The fertile creative ground of M-Base continues to bear fruit with the release of longtime Steve Coleman keyboardist Andy Milne’s Dapp Theory
. At a recent Ravi Coltrane gig, I mentioned to Milne how different his playing sounded from his work with Coleman. Surprised, he said, “Well, yeah, it’s a different music.” While Dapp Theory is a different music, it retains M-Base earmarks, including spacious easygoing melodic lines drifting above busy beat-heavy workouts. Perhaps utilizing another trick from the M-Base book, he keeps a well-rehearsed unit touring together until complex material sounds spontaneous.
Gregoire Maret will be familiar to fans of Charlie Hunter’s Right Now Move. A graduate of New School, Maret’s a skilled improviser threatening to introduce chromatic harmonica to a new generation. M-Base connection: recorded with Me’Shell Ndegeocello. Drummer Sean Rickman paid dues playing around LA with Phil Upchurch and Bobby Lyle, before his M-Base connections: recording with Me’Shell Ndegeocello and currently touring and recording with Steve Coleman. Bassist Rich Brown has no M-Base connection, but with Jaco Pastorious and Victor Bailey as role models, he brings a solid fusion background to the game.
Milne’s inclusion of fellow Canadian Bruce Cockburn in the mix smacks of genius. An insightful political writer who over-packs a line like Dylan, Cockburn’s sharp tongue and alliteration meshes perfectly with the tight beat-driven sound. So much so, that Cockburn’s new album will feature performances by Dapp Theory. Also on board is the rapper Kokayi, whose playful offtime deliveries work as an added rhythm dimension, apart from the socially conscious message he conveys. A facilitator of workshops at Stanford University, his M-Base connection includes appearances on four Coleman albums with that helped introduced hip hop to jazz in the mid '90s.
Opening an indictment of greed culture on “Trickle Down,” the wisdom of juxtaposing Cockburn with Kokayi becomes apparent. Milne and Rickman’s background vocals add richness, while Brown’s bass funks it up. “In the Moment” starts out butt heavy with Brown and Rickman dancing lightly. Milne states the theme electronically, then switches to piano to converse with Maret. As Maret explores the changes he’s joined by M-Base alumnus Dave Gilmore on guitar, playing a welcome cameo.
A ballad duet with Maret and Milne on piano, “Con Alma” unveils a gentle lyricism by both musicians. Spacious and inviting, the little gem showcases Maret’s warm sound and invention. “Patterns of Force” sets a rumbling groove in motion that shows what the quartet can do at cruising altitude, then without a break “Only Clave” turns up serious heat. With the churning rhythm section at his back, Milne alternates between acoustic and electric piano, creating colorful splashes between tight unisons with Maret. Kokayi blows in to spill gasoline on the fire.
”Bad Air” offers more of Cockburn’s acidic irony with Kokayi’s input, and they wrap it all up with the soothing “Lullaby.” Dapp Theory’s bright genre stomping excursions are good news for music generally. Congratulations to Concord Records for releasing one of the gutsiest collections in their history.
Personnel: Gregoire Maret, harmonica; Rich Brown, electric bass; Sam Rickman, bass, vocals; Andy Milne,
piano, keyboards, vocals; Bruce Cockburn, guitar, vocals; Kokayi, vocals.