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Scott Dubois: Landscape Scripture

Troy Collins By

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Art inspired by work in another medium can be difficult to successfully resolve—the old adage, "dancing about architecture," comes to mind. In the hands of a truly talented and empathetic artist however, such creative cross-pollination can bear surprisingly fruitful results, occasionally developing new potential for expression beyond the preconceived limitations of each respective form.

Landscape Scripture is a highly accomplished and fully realized example of this concept. The fifth album by guitarist Scott DuBois (his third for Sunnyside Records), this record draws inspiration from the Impressionist paintings of Claude Monet—specifically his seasonally thematic Haystacks series. Capturing subtleties in lighting, temperature and texture, DuBois' aural interpretations of Monet's varied canvases convey the rising potential of spring, the celebratory warmth of summer, the wistful melancholy of autumn and the meditative calm of winter, in all their multihued glory.

Eschewing the intricate contrapuntal structures that dominated his quartet's previous releases, DuBois penned a series of melodically straightforward pieces for this evocative session, including two long-form works directly inspired by more familiar landscapes—the panoramic vistas of his home state of Illinois. The sanguine "Prairie Suite" builds to an ecstatic climax reminiscent of the New Thing's transcendent spirituality, while the episodic "Lake Shore Suite" boasts an array of kaleidoscopic detours, ranging from German multi-instrumentalist Gebhard Ullmann's probing tenor soliloquies to DuBois' anthemic valedictory choruses.

The leader's prismatic fretwork is featured prominently throughout the date; darting between harmonic intervals with virtuosic aplomb, his quicksilver arpeggios lend an air of bristling intensity to the set's folksy, psychedelic patina. At their most reserved, his resonant single note lines evoke a rustic Midwestern sensibility, which inspires introspective reflection from Ullmann, whose muted musings on "Goodbye" mirror the leader's serene lyricism, while providing significant contrast to his own caterwauling bass clarinet tirade during the bracing coda of "Prairie Suite."

Evoking John Fahey more than Bill Frisell, DuBois' singularly bittersweet take on Americana is bolstered by the laudable contributions of fellow New York-based bassist Thomas Morgan and Danish drummer Kresten Osgood. Their nimble in-the-pocket grooves infuse DuBois and Ullmann's interweaving cadences with a dynamic balance between rhapsodic élan and understated sensitivity. Osgood's performance is particularly notable; on the bucolic opener, "Spring Haystacks," he gradually modulates from impressionistic flourishes to impasto layers, rendering captivating polyrhythms without missing a beat.

A creative breakthrough for DuBois' longstanding quartet, Landscape Scripture is more tuneful, earnest and accessible than any of their previous releases, and more importantly, is a brilliant transposition of another artist's visualizations into pure sound.

Track Listing: Spring Haystacks; Prairie Suite; Goodbye; Summer Haystacks; Lake Shore Suite; Autumn Haystacks; Passing Spirit; Winter Haystacks.

Personnel: Scott DuBois: guitar; Gebhard Ullmann: tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Thomas Morgan: bass; Kresten Osgood: drums.

Title: Landscape Scripture | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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