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 powerhe'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 2010and 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.