This solo percussion set by Ches Smith offers ten songs full of depth and imagination. About half of the tunes on Congs for Brums feature the vibraphone, the other half drums and percussion; some songs include both. Smith wrote all the vibraphone pieces on piano and his drum pieces borrow ideas from the vibraphone songs, allowing the tunes to play off one another and create a uniquely beautiful cohesion.
Several songs deserve mention, including the first cut, "The Clarinet in B Flat." This haunting vibraphone piece is full of airy individual notes and sparkling runs. Smith is extremely sensitive to space, and he allows the notes to expand to their full range. The spareness of the piece shows why the vibes can be such a mesmerizing instrument.
"Homemade Posi, a drum/percussion piece, features agile stickwork and interesting rhythms. Again Smith allows for the strength of individual notes, with some cymbal hits expanding like a drop of water spreading out in a pond. "Homemade Counterpoint, another vibes tune, is a beautifully intricate piece where Smith creates layers by making full use of the vibes' long fadeouts.
One of the advantages of solo music is that the listener can really hear each instrument's subtleties. On Congs for Brums each hit of the mallet and every brushstroke and cymbal hit are given space to breathe. And yet Smith is also a very forceful player, particularly on drums, and the way he interweaves gentleness and intensity is what makes the recording so absorbing.
Track Listing: The Clarinet in B flat; My Motherfuckin' Roda!; Metal Vacation; Mental Vacation; Homemade Posi; Homemade Counterpoint; Don't Sweat the Smalls; Man P; My Last Coke; The Contra Alto Clarinet in E flat.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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