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douBt: Never Pet a Burning Dog

Mark Redlefsen By

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Guitarist Michel Deville, of the Belgian The Wrong Object, and British keyboardist Alex Maguire team up to form a power trio with drummer Tony Bianco as doubt, on its debut, Never Pet a Burning Dog. Deville steps out with a louder, more direct tone, affectionately and more overtly exposing the influence of Terje Rypdal—even including one of his compositions, "Over Birkerot," from Odyssey (ECM, 1975). The enhanced gunslinger performance is warranted, to meet the demands thrown up by Maguire and his armory of keyboards, blasting out turbulent Cecil Taylor-like riffs like solar flares.

Both Deville and Maguire take an extreme leap forward since their previous meeting on Maguire's sextet album, Brewed in Belgium (MoonJune, 2008), much as drummer Tony Williams, guitarist John McLaughlin, and organist Larry Young played so differently in the hard crunch of Lifetime Visions Orchestra in 1969, versus their far different and more supportive impressionistic roles in the music of Miles Davis just one year earlier.

Beyond such groups references, this affair is a magnet for fans of Mahavishnu Orchestra, John Abercrombie, and Niacin. For prog fans that come onboard for the presence of Caravan/Hatfield and The North bassist/vocalist Richard Sinclair—who appears on a few tracks—be forewarned that the majority of Never Pet a Burning Dog contains highly steroidal chops, demanding above-the-norm patience and active listening. The opening melodic whispers of Sinclair on "Corale di San Luca," over a calm floating tempo, only serve as a red herring for what is to come.

The overdriven keyboards and guitar on "Laughter" mesh to form patches of electrical storm. Ironically, there is an eye in that storm on "Passing Cloud"—Sinclair's fully fleshed-out vocals reemerging in a last cameo over a lush bed of Fender Rhodes and mellotron, sans guitar—but Deville and Maguire crash right back into the game on "Cosmic Surgery." Most of the original compositions serve as flight plans that guide the almost competitive velocity of Maguire and Deville, but Bianco—the American in the mix—meets them in their fusionist duel, injecting and countering with his overall jazzier ethos on his own contribution, "Aeon."

Despite the influences and references, this is 21st Century progressive jazz rock that pushes to escape the gravity of the familiar. This is by no means humorous music, but rather an exhibition of possibilities beyond Canterbury. There is a certain sense of confidence in douBt's style that suggests there is yet more to be said. Demanding music for demanding times.

Track Listing: Corale di San Luca; Laughter; Over Birkerot; Sea; Passing Cloud; Cosmic Surgery; Aeon; Beppe's Shelter.

Personnel: Alex Maguire: Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond organ, mellotron, synth; Michel Delville: electric guitar, Roland GR-09; Tony Bianco: drums; Richard Sinclair: vocals (1, 5); bass guitar (1, 2).

Title: Never Pet a Burning Dog | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Moonjune Records

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