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Dancing Dogs Kick Up A Restless Racket On 'Patience'


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Don’t try to pigeonhole Dancing Dogs. It won’t work. Their instrumental mélange is an extraordinary feat of genre mashing that combines everything from fusion and be-bop to funk, R&B, Afro-cuban, and Latin jazz idioms. Think King Sunny Ade meets the Crusaders meets Chucho Valdes and you’d at least be on the right track. Throw in a little Neville Brothers and a battery of rock guitar licks and you’d be closer still. But the fact remains, there’s so much color in the compositions of the Dancing Dogs that you’d be hard-pressed to describe them in just a paragraph or two.

The band’s debut album on Whaling City Sound, Patience, was recorded in one rather insane weekend at Sound Station Seven in Providence, with Rob Pemberton, and mastered up in Boston by Mark Donahue at SoundMirror. The resulting project bubbles over with funky exuberance, recalling the great days of classic New Orleans R&B, when there was no better place to be than a sweaty Bourbon Street dance floor.

The engine of this band resides in the collective heart of its six passionate members. Tom Short and Joe Rapoza make up the horn section, apparently blowing into whatever horn happens to be nearby. Their resumes list trumpets, saxes, cornets, flutes, clarinets, and valve trombones. Matt Ryckebush and John Nieman stand tall as the rhythmic backbone, on bass and drums respectively. They are the Dogs that keep the band’s snarling arrangements pinned down to its strong rhythmic motifs. Percussionist Jimi Beauregard does his part to enrich the band’s up-tempo approach. And finally, guitarist Jim Robitaille, a be-bopper by trade, lets loose with all manner of licks, from Latin-fired solos to Stevie Ray slashing and juju beat “synchronicity.” It’s largely Robitaille’s hues that help the Dancing Dogs’ moods shift so dramatically.

Together, the band sinks its teeth into over a dozen originals and a few covers, with Rapoza and Robitaille serving as the band’s chief composers. Both write from an eclectic palette. Robitaille’s “Deep Tango” takes Astor Piazzolla to its extreme, with a McLaughlin-esque solo thrown in for good measure. Rapoza’s “Haute Tamale” starts with a New Orleans march and ventures into classic funk. Saxman Tom Short contributes the odd but rockin’ ska-flavored “Corporate Heads.” Elsewhere, the band covers Monk’s classic “Brilliant Corners” with zesty aplomb, and ends the disc with a breathless run-through of Mingus’s “Nostalgia in Times Square.” Phew!

A departure from the more traditional sounds from Whaling City Sound, Patience is an altogether unique and gifted approach to the instrumental jazz idiom, and one that dares to be heard. Be courageous and give it a spin.

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