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Scott Dubois: Banshees

Budd Kopman By

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Comparisons are only as good as the knowledge of the compared, but they can be helpful. Guitarist Scott Dubois' efforts on Banshees invite comparison to Samo Salamon, in that his instrumental technique and, by extension, his music live in the world of the unexpected and the unpredictable.

Just being that, however, would not be enough and it is a pleasure to be able to say that this release contains much thought and structure which supports the free-wheeling spirit that is the essence of Dubois' music.

Having recorded two previous quintet albums with reedmen David Liebman and Loren Stillman, Monsoon (Soul Note, 2004) and Tempest (Soul Note, 2007) respectively, Dubois now has a transcontinental quartet. The reeds are manned by the intense Gebhard Ullmann, who spends his time between Berlin and New York, with a rhythm section consisting of bassist Thomas Morgan (who played on the earlier albums) and Danish drummer Kresten Osgood.

Clearly, Dubois wants players comfortable in playing without a net and who will challenge him to rise to their level. Ullmann wears this kind of music like a second skin and plays freely with the best of them. However, his own music also contains strong thematic kernels on which the freedom hinges, and hence his playing always maintains a sense of unity. Osgood is a forceful, emotional drummer who also creates a strong sense of space with his cymbal work. He and Morgan provide the rhythmic, harmonic and spatial skeleton for the music, allowing Dubois and Ullmann freedom to fly.

Dubois' music is highly emotional with an undertone of controlled intensity and intellect. When he plays, it sounds at times as if his mind is racing ahead, so full of ideas that he can barely get it out—very much like Salamon. On Banshees Dubois has chosen a pinched, distant tone for the most part, recorded within, rather than in the front of the mix, making him but one of four equals—the quartet is anything but guitar-led.

The center of each track is unpredictable, following no recognizable pattern of solos, but rather a give-and-take among everyone, providing the meat, the guts and the excitement. Balancing this, however, are the beginnings and endings, which are predictable to the extent that Ullmann and Dubois usually play the theme in unison. Thus, a strong A-B-A structure is created, harkening back to the head-solos-recap structure of days gone by, creating a repetitive sense of sameness.

This is a minor quibble however and, overall, detracts little from the intensity of the release. Banshees has a lot to offer, with many levels to uncover on each spin.

Track Listing: Mid to the West; Bend; Canaria; Inverse; Mouse Song; Old Man on Platform; Apparition.

Personnel: Scott Dubois: guitar; Gebhard Ullmann: tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Thomas Morgan: bass; Kresten Osgood: drums.

Title: Banshees | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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