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Sean Noonan: Being Brewed By Noon

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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Few musicians since Miles Davis have had such a penchant for boxing as drummer Sean Noonan—the CD photos for Being Brewed by Noon show him bedecked in all the trappings of the sport, and he boxes with a pumpkin-headed monster in the video version of "Pumpkinhead Part 2" in the accompanying DVD.

This new record is not so much the boxer's follow-up to the fine Stories to Tell (Songlines, 2006) as it is a second kick at the same can. Six of the twelve numbers on this package were also featured on the earlier effort, and more generally, the musical project is the same: a simmering brew (indeed) of West African guitar and rhythm with Celtic elements, graced by the participation of at least two leading lights of the New York scene—the swooping, borderline free-viola of Mat Maneri and the humid, heavy-metal guitar of Marc Ribot.

And it's a project worth checking out, though not every record library would need to include both Stories to Tell and Being Brewed by Noon. Both have points in their favor: the more recent release benefits from a DVD with a long and somewhat sloppy documentary by Tom Asma.

This effort has a loose, live feel, and if the former record sounded like a collective with shifting personnel, this one sounds like a real band. That impression is fostered by generous footage of the band performing on the documentary DVD. The record shares that loose feel with the underrated Live at the Caravan of Dreams by drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson with Twins Seven Seven (Caravan of Dreams, 1986), and likewise echoes its fusion of chiming, relentlessly positive jazz with West African musical building blocks. (Maneri's viola stands in here for Akbar Ali's violin on the Jackson record.)

Noonan takes the notion of Afro-Celtic fusion quite seriously, with Susan McKeown singing in Gaelic and Abdoulaye Diabaté and Thierno Camara in (I think) Wolof and Bambara. The substrate upon which this fusion occurs is a layer of earnest, ponderous 70s-FM rock and roll. The 70s connection is especially apparent in the marvelous "No Strings Attached."

"Pat the Cat," meanwhile, is the best of the new numbers, if only half brewed—a punky, rock segment, followed by several minutes of dreamy, brooding Gaelic verse, punctuated by Ribot's riotous guitar.

This music has a certain drunken grandiosity—and amiability. It sounds spontaneous, but cannot help but let you glimpse the considerable musical intelligence that holds it together. Letting Noonan talk about his musical philosophy on the DVD—and providing visual evidence of his kinetic drumming style (in the agitated lineage of Jack DeJohnette), adds to the experience.


Track Listing: CD: Esspi; Zaman; No Strings Attached; Noonbrews; Karaslama; Jamaladeen; Pat the Cat; Dr. Sleepytime; Pumpkinhead - Part I. DVD: Being Brewed by Noon documentary by Tom Asma; Pumpkinhead - Part 2; Masana Cisse; Urban.

Personnel: Sean Noonan: electro-acoustic drum set, compositions; Mat Maneri: viola; Marc Ribot: guitar; Aram Bajakian: guitar; Abdoulaye Diabaté: vocals, guitar, percussion; Jamaladeen Tacuma: bass; Thierno Camara: bass, vocals; Susan McKeown: vocals.

Title: Being Brewed By Noon | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Innova Recordings

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