It's the quiet ones you have to watch for. Not the furtive loner, living behind drawn shades at the end of your cul-de-sac; but the music that crawls into your ear on little cat feet and whispers, "This is not what you're used to. This... is something else. I Love Paris
sends that message loud and clear, using the Cole Porter standard as a bridge to a perspective that is as beautiful as it is harsh.
Saxophonists Brian VanArsdale and Nathan Heleine man the Dan Loomis Quartet's front line, with no keyboards to blunt the edges or widen the focus. But where Gerry Mulligan's super-cool piano-free recordings with Chet Baker cooled the head and lowered the pulse, VanArsdale and Heleine's unsettling, multi-faceted dynamic is not for the timid, and is wholly satisfying for those who want to peek outside the box.
The lyrics to "I Love Paris are typical Porter, an international bon vivant who celebrated the romance inherent in the City of Lights. The DLQ's take is entirely different: Driven by Loomis' steel cable-taut bass line and Jared Schonig's volcanic percussion, Heleine delivers a flat opening melody that delivers that lyric with a palpable cynicism. As the band sinks its fangs deeper into the piece, we see the parts of Paris where tourists fear to tread and the Left Bank is a work of fiction.
I Love Paris chooses the hard road over the easy path every time. VanArsdale's "Hildy Speaks (Jon's Lament) is a physical impossibilitya dirge-like bossa nova, broadcasting loss in the face of Heleine's light lines. On the other side of VanArsdale's coin is "Lakesha, a funky Second Line composition that yanks you out of your seat while staying rooted in the seamier areas of New Orleans. "Pied Noir has got a great beat, but you'd look like you were having a fit if you tried to dance to it, while "The Thrill Is Gone is light-years from B.B. King's majestic original, but its message is the same: It's over, and so is the magic.
For all the light and heat in the front line, the real business happens in the rhythm section. Schonig's percussion has such drama and power, even in quiet moments like the Eastern-flavored "For Harry Carney (where Schonig's hand-drumming wraps around Heleine's snake-charmer alto) or Loomis' stripped-down take on Coltrane's "Dear Lord. Loomis' no-nonsense bass has the whip-crack feel of Dave Holland, double-teaming you with style and substance. Loomis' solo momentson "Thrill and on the contemplative "Goodbye are stunning in both approach and result; by and large though, he is content to steer his unit through waters that are challenging for both the players and the listener.
I Love Paris is more proof that great things come from small labels. Like the early Impressionists, the Dan Loomis Quartet has created a series of portraits that may not be pretty, but they sure are real. As the title implies, I Love Paris, especially when it sizzles, which is all the time.
Dan Loomis: bass; Jared Schonig: drums; Brian VanArsdale: tenor sax; Nathan Heleine: alto sax.