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Rich West: Bedouin Hornbook

Jim Santella By

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With a session of collective improvisation, Rich West's unique quintet spawns creative music that swings within the boundaries of jazz's tradition. Thus, his Bedouin Hornbook stands out as an accessible program for the jazz novice as well as the hardened veteran.

Propelled by tuba and drum set on the bottom and trumpet, guitar and alto saxophone on the top, the quintet explores exotic territory from distant lands. Their impressionism takes you on a journey through places that aren't recognized. These are new places that come from our imaginations. This way, we've got as much freedom while listening as the five artists had while they created this stellar program.

Chris Heenam's bass clarinet takes the shape of a didgeridoo on "Twang," to open an extended piece with a meter that comes and goes. Scot Ray's tuba becomes the solo voice for a portion of the suite-like piece, as trumpet and alto saxophone converse with electric guitar. West adds locomotion halfway through, and the ensemble starts to swing with enthusiasm. As ideas bounce off one another, the piece cycles through blues, jazz, rock, and folk roots.

We hear the tuba in other forms of music, from our automobile or bedroom window, as a part of the regenerated Banda Norte Americana fascination. With earlier generations, this would have been polka or John Philip Sousa. In concert with Rich West's creative force, the tuba stands out as a unique instrument, capable of interpreting an extended melody or a raving conversation. Ray's interaction with drums and guitar, in particular, weaves a strong web that casts off the stereotype and places his voice in the creative center.

West's percussive tirades, as well, serve to dispel rumors that the drummer is simply a timekeeper. He gathers collective ideas and leads them along a path to their fruition. There are drum breaks and swinging entreaties, but West's role remains solid as the helmsman in charge of his unit. With "Tychai 1 and 2," the drummer takes his partners from a scattered, warm-up introduction toward unity and into a driving waltz that evokes muscular dancers from some far-off Siberian hide-away. Recommended, Rich West's Bedouin Hornbook is for all of us sound travelers, as we take our daily journeys through the universe.

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Track Listing: Bugge; Tribology; Twang; Tread; Friends of the Vacuum; Tychai 1 and 2; Curly; Furcifer.

Personnel: Rich West- drums; Chris Heenam- bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Bruce Friedman- trumpet; Jeremy Drake- electric guitar; Scot Ray- E-flat tuba.

Title: Bedouin Hornbook | Year Released: 2004

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