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Aaron Staebell: Bending & Breaking

Bruce Lindsay By

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Bending And Breaking is percussionist and composer Aaron Staebell's debut as a bandleader; a debut filled with energy, enthusiasm, and invention, signaling the appearance of yet another talented newcomer on the scene.

As a composer, Staebell's work takes inspiration from and shares qualities with a wide range of styles and sources. "Nobody Reads Your Blog" has echoes of Frank Zappa; "Grumbleboxx" can trace a line back to heavy metal and to free jazz; "Thank You John" is dedicated to drummer John Hollenbeck, whose support led directly to this album's existence; and on "Ben Dover," dedicated to bassist Ben Thomas, there are clear echoes of British bands such as Led Bib and Polar Bear. The album's tour-de-force, the lovely ..." I Learn By Going Where I Have To Go," takes its title from Theodore Roethke's "The Waking." Staebell based the tune on various numbers of importance to his relationship with an ex-girlfriend, resulting in a complex, but beautiful and accessible tune.

On "April 4: Boston," Staebell's proves himself a player capable of some extremely hard-hitting drumming, but his inventiveness and flexibility ensure many moments of subtler percussion to be enjoyed as well, such as on the exquisitely pretty opening section of "Nathaniel Hill."

Staebell's band mates, all from the Eastman School of Music, meet the challenge of his compositions with flair. Thomas, in particular, deserves credit for matching Staebell's power—he's an equally tough and emphatic player, keeping control of the rhythm and never becoming overwhelmed even when the drummer is in his finest earthmoving form. Keyboardist Chris Ziemba is another confident musician, punching out strident rhythms, and contributing delicate, single-note runs. Trumpeter Dave Chisholm—who released his own excellent self-produced debut, Radioactive, in 2010—and tenor saxophonist Wills McKenna are both fluid players with clear tones that glide happily over the sounds emanating from the band's more percussive instruments.

As well as musical ability, Bending And Breaking demonstrates Staebell's welcome sense of humor. It's in his sleeve notes (although the tiny font size makes them hard to read), and in titles like "Nobody Reads Your Blog." It's also in the music, such as the jaunty fairground organ that suddenly appears midway through "Grumbleboxx." Surprises like that give Bending And Breaking added spark, and make Staebell's emerging presence doubly welcome.

Track Listing: Grumbleboxx; Nathaniel Hill; Thank You John; Ben Dover; ...I Learn By Going Where I Have To Go; April 4: Boston; Lay Down Your Burden; Klooge; Promise; Nobody Reads Your Blog.

Personnel: Aaron Staebell: drums, percussion; Dave Chisholm: trumpet; Wills McKenna: tenor saxophone; Chris Ziemba: piano, keyboards; Ben Thomas: bass.

Title: Bending & Breaking | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Self Produced


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