Although a late bloomer (the first recording under his own name came in 1997 when he was 52), Dominic Duval is one of the great bassists working in jazz today. And in the last ten years, his output both under his own name and in bands (including Trio X and with Cecil Taylor) has ballooned to well over 60 releases. Although best known as a bassist of voluminous technique whose output is oriented toward the avant-garde and free improvisation, that sells his overall vision short. Duval's music spans a wide spectrum as these three new releases show.
Dominic Duval String Quartet
For Mountain Air, Duval has resurrected his String Quartet, a group that has lain dormant since their last release Under The Pyramid (2000). Despite the hiatus, the personnel has remained intact with the exception of the violin chair where Jason Kao Hwang has been replaced by Gregor Huebner. Although the original name of this group has been modified from C.T. String Quartet, after Cecil Taylor (in whose unit Duval played for ten years), Taylor still seems to be a source of inspiration. The title is in reference to the pianist's 1977 solo set Air Above Mountains. This string quartet echoes his harmonic density, rhythmic drive and virtuosic playing within their improvised structures. The music may make use of the hallowed ensemble of Western classical music but there are also prime differences. First of all, the instrumentation includes a bass viol, as opposed to the standard second violin. This serves to give the ensemble a fuller, thicker sound. Secondly, the music is, for the most part, improvised. Structures and approaches may be discussed beforehand but once the music begins, it's open territory. A tremendous amount of attention seems to be paid to group balance. These are all listening players who know what group improvisation means and how to maneuver around each other. The music ebbs and swells, the group divides into various combinations, passages of intense, dense string interplay give way to ones of shimmering beauty.
Dominic Duval/Jimmy Halperin
Monkinus finds Duval mining a more mainstream mode interpreting the songs of Thelonious Monk with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Halperin. It's interesting that he chose to partner with Halperin since, as Halperin states in his liner notes, he has "consciously avoided (Monk) most of my life. Perhaps this is what attracted Duval to using him since Halperin comes up with some unique ideas in phrasing and harmonics that other saxophonists avoid. His approach is more expansive, almost Coltrane-esque as opposed to Charlie Rouse's more measured and literal interpretations. While his unfamiliarity with the music at times causes him problems (he seems hesitant on "Crisscross ), Halperin also pushes Monk's music down some different avenues. His a cappella interludes on both the opener "Ruby My Dear and "Round Midnight are highlights of the disc. Duval's trenchant bass almost functions as a guide, goading and prodding the saxophonist, adding harmonic texture and rhythmic momentum. He's all over this music. Check out the way he starts "Rhythm-a-Ning playing in unison with Halperin before deviating into a harmony line. Most Monk tribute albums are fairly run of the mill but Monkinus stands out from the pack.
Ivo Perelman/Dominic Duval
Soul Calling covers more familiar terrain for Duval listeners. Duval and Brazilian saxophonist Ivo Perelman have collaborated on a number of recordings and in a number of groups since 1997 (including one album Perelman recorded with the C.T. String Quartet, Alexander Suite). Perelman with his huge tone and passionate playing has always been a good match for Duval. Although the material for this studio session from September 2000 is based on nine Perelman compositions, the music is still pretty open-ended. Duval does a lot of arco work, especially on the first two tracks. On "Ametista and "M.S.M. Duval effectively uses his bass-electronics setup which provokes some interesting responses from Perelman. As for Perelman, his command of the tenor sax is second to none and his use of the instrument's extended range is frequently to the fore throughout this set. But it's the simpatico relationship between the two that makes this disc worthwhile listening.
Tracks: First Movement; Son Rapport; Energies Up; No Lax Here; Questions & Answers; Next; Heart Song; One In Four; Another In Four; A Ballad In Time Saves 4; Phrasing; Sal; Third Movement.
Personnel: Dominic Duval: bass; Ron Lawrence: viola; Gregor Huebner: violin; Tomas Ulrich: cello.
Tracks: Ruby My Dear; Evidence; Crisscross; Rhythm-a-ning; Misterioso; Round Midnight; Epistrophy; Brilliant Corners; Off Minor; Monk's Mood; Blue Monk; Bye-ya; Monk's Dream.
Personnel: Dominic Duval: bass; Jimmy Halperin: tenor saxophone.
Tracks: Soul Calling; Surrender To Uncertainty; Silkworm; 7 Octaves 7 Days; Mingmen; Ametista; Unable To Deliver; M.S.M.; Untitled.
Personnel: Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Dominic Duval: bass.