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Yells at Eels: In Quiet Waters

Karl Ackermann By

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It would seem that trumpeter Dennis González could easily find a place among the better-known artists in jazz were it not for a deep commitment to making generally undefinable music and priorities that include putting his academic and literary responsibilities out front. From the time of his first release as a leader, Air Light (Sleep Sailor) (Daagnim, 1979), González began toying with unusual amalgams like free improvisation and quasi-big band augmented with global dynamics. Much of the way González communicates his vision on In Quiet Waters is through those same sensibilities, playing multiple instruments and channeling life and less earth-bound experiences as musical influences.

Throughout the 80s González recorded on the Silkheart label working with artists such as saxophonists John Purcell and Charles Brackeen, bassist Malachi Favors and later—on Konnex—with guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Andrew Cyrille. Following a stint at retirement from music, González began performing with his sons, bassist Aaron and drummer Stefan, in 1999 under the name "Yells at Eels." Each of their previous albums has featured the appearance of one or more guests including saxophonist Rodrigo Amado on The Great Bydgoszcz Concert (2009), drummers Louis Moholo-Moholo on Cape Of Storms (2010) and Alvin Fielder on Resurrection And Life (2011), all on Ayler Records. In Quiet Waters marks the first time the core trio has performed without additional support.

Within In Quiet Waters there is a great deal of diversity from the spare—at times minimalist—"Lorca" and "Upper Arm" while "In Quiet Waters the Devils Are Living" could be mistaken for Rob Mazurek's São Paulo Underground were it not for an extended bass solo from Aaron González. "Hymn for Julius Hemphill" is a highlight of the collection. Opening with a protracted explosion of percussive effects (of which this trio employs many) and giving way to the senior González on button accordion, the fourteen-plus minute piece features fine individual efforts from each member of the González trio. Aaron González shows a deft skillfulness reminiscent of Joey Baron with subtle but commanding drive and assurance. As Dennis returns to trumpet for a poignant solo, he is matched by Stefan's own individual contribution. The piece eventually veers off to a more abstract treatment, at times suggestive of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago; not surprising, as the AACM was an early influence on González.

Each member of the trio plays multiple instruments imparting the sound of a much larger group. Aaron and Stefan are documented proof that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in this exceptionally talented family. Leading up to the release of In Quiet Waters, each member of the González trio had undergone a year filled with individual tumult around health and personal issues. It can be felt palpably in the tension and release of more animated pieces such as ""Document for Walt Dickerson" and in the cautious tone of "Perpetual Gallows for Consecutive Selves." But dispersed throughout, there is an often raucous feeling of celebration at holding those devils hiding in quiet waters at bay.

Track Listing: Lorca; In Quiet Waters the Devils Are Living; Hymn for Julius Hemphill; Muse; Restless Debauchery I; Upper Arm; Document for Walt Dickerson; Lower Arm; Perpetual Gallows for Consecutive Selves; Restless Debauchery II.

Personnel: Dennis González: cornet, C trumpet, button accordion, charango, gong, percussion, bells, voice; Aaron González: double bass, bass guitar, gong, bells, vocals; Stefan González: drums, marimba, vibraphone, udu, darabouka, cabasa, bells, vocals.

Title: In Quiet Waters | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Fortune Records

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