Trombonist/composer Brian Drye is a modern musician for whom jazz is but one ingredient in his music. To him, the term is merely a pigeonhole, meant to typecast and eventually marginalize his work. He is not alone in this prescience, on Bizingas, Drye is accompanied by three visionary and quixotic players: cornetist Kirk Knuffke; guitarist Jonathan Goldberger; and drummer Ches Smith.
Like his other work in the Balkan music outfit Slavic Soul Party, the chamber ensemble The Four Bags, or his trombone/synth/guitar trio, Drye's tastes are diverse and sometimes seemingly dissimilar. Bizingas writes its own protocol. The opening piece "Tagger" is built upon Smith's rocking beat, a player whose signature has been gracing guitarists Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot's bands. Intertwined, Drye's trombone and Knuffke's trumpet bounce along with the beat as an insistent force. Knuffke has been credited of late, along with Peter Evans as the jazz trumpet's new face, equally at home with rock, free improvised, and traditional music.
If Drye has a contemporary, it might be former boss, drummer John Hollenbeck, who shares his vision for pairing odd instrumentation. The trombone/electric guitar/cornet/drums combination has no history in modern music. When the band shifts to glockenspiel and space-age synth on "Stretched Thin," the chamber music for George Jetson discombobulates a bit, but in a strangely satisfying way.
Drye never settles for just one sound. "Pastoral" opens, sans drums, in a sea of harmony. The waves branch into improvisations over the metallic tapping of Smith. Goldberger's guitar phrasing gets bounced off both Knuffke and Drye. Contrast that with the lack of improvising on "Farmer," a meditative composition, perhaps a movie soundtrack or chamber piece. Drye's composing is influenced by pop as much as modern chamber, and minimalism.
The odd "Untitled Moog Anthem" is a sort of Ennio Morricone spaghetti western theme dosed with eerie analog synthesizers and sluggish surf guitar. Somehow nothing here feels like the one-off tune or odd man out; it all fits.
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