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Brian Drye: Bizingas

Troy Collins By

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Bizingas is the self-titled debut of trombonist Brian Drye's quartet of the same name. A versatile stylist whose resume includes stints with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Slavic Soul Party and indie rock stars like Arcade Fire, Drye's eclecticism is a common trait in the fertile Brooklyn scene he calls home, where his protean sensibility is best realized as sideman to artists like drummer John Hollenbeck, trombonist Curtis Hasselbring and cornetist Kirk Knuffke.

Though he has recorded frequently with the improvising chamber group, The Four Bags and the electric quartet, Slog, it was Drye's contribution to Big Wig (Clean Feed, 2008), Knuffke's debut as a leader, that previously offered the best example of the trombonist's expansive technique—a clever post-modern amalgam of blustery expressionism and nimble virtuosity. Knuffke returns the favor as Drye's frontline partner in Bizingas, with guitarist Jonathan Goldberger's occasional use of baritone guitar and drummer Ches Smith's dynamic kit work providing ample bottom end for the bass-less quartet.

Interpreting Drye's sundry compositions with unified focus, the group's infectious enthusiasm is palpable from the first notes of the anthem-like opener, "Tagger." A gospelized rock hybrid of bustling vamps and scorching power chords, the song peaks with a pair of soaring brass crescendos from Drye and Knuffke, whose animated discourse is a constant throughout the session. Un-tempered tonal effects alternate with probing ruminations and sonorous refrains, suggesting a comprehensive and egalitarian view of jazz history, as their evanescent duo cadenza at the heart of the pithy swinger "Iluminum" reveals. Goldberger and Smith enjoy a similar rapport, with Goldberger's ethereal volume pedal swells shadowing Smith's scintillating glockenspiel patterns on the cinematic dirge "Stretched Thin."

An adept composer with an ear for melody, Drye's use of counterpoint and complex meters augments his tuneful writing; his understated lyricism unites disparate approaches whether assertive or introspective. Vigorous pieces like the syncopated funk number "Guilty," are imbued with the same rich harmonic detail as more austere fare, like the impressionistic ballad "Sifting." In addition to his supple trombone skills, Drye's capable pianism is featured on a handful of tunes, as well as his analog synth programming, which lends a surreal air to the proceedings. The appropriately named "Untitled Moog Anthem" is exemplary—an evocative juxtaposition of electro-acoustic tonalities that blends reverb-drenched Ennio Morricone-esque vistas with 8-bit video game pageantry. Though unusual by conventional standards, these efforts convey the same emotional depth as more traditional pieces, such as the leader's spare, but effective piano variations on the rhapsodic "TMT."

Similar in its irreverent approach towards stylistic purity, Bizingas makes an excellent companion to Ches Smith's own recently released debut, Finally Out of My Hands (Skirl, 2010). Impressive introductions to a new generation of fearless improvisers, these documents suggest a bold new future for jazz and improvised music.

Track Listing: Tagger; Money Market; TMT; Huminum; Pastoral; Sifting; Stretched Thin; Guilty; Farmer; Untitled Moog Anthem.

Personnel: Brian Drye: trombone, piano, synthesizer, compositions; Kirk Knuffke: cornet; Ches Smith: drums; Jonathan Goldberger: guitar.

Title: Bizingas | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: NCM East

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