West Coast percussionist Brad Dutz may have a lot of more conventional work to his credithe's contributed to television and film scores including Star Trek: The Next Generation and Mission Impossible, as well as performing and/or recording with artists including Tribal Tech, Rickie Lee Jones, and Frank Sinatrabut when it comes to his own recordings, he's considerably farther left of centre. Nine Gardeners Named Ned feels mostly like contemporary chamber compositionat times serious, at other times absurdwhile elsewhere it demonstrates a more liberal sense of free interplay.
With an ensemble so heavy on woodwinds and hornsclarinets, bassoon, flutes, trumpet, and tuba dominate, with support from bass, percussion, and drumsthis nine-part suite is remarkably light on rhythm for an album by a percussionist. Still, Dutz is all over the disc, contributing vibraphone and marimba to the mix, in addition to a slew of hand percussion. And some pieces do revolve around propulsive rhythms. "Distribute fertilizer...evenly finds Dutz layering all manner of hand percussion instruments as a setup for a more elastic middle section where Chris Wabich's steel drum takes the lead. "Norbert rakes bark...and mulch revolves around a military intro with rolling snare drums driving the piece's insistent pulse, with tuba, bassoon, trumpet, and clarinets creating a rich counterpoint over which Ellen Burr's layers of piccolo flute provide an increasingly chaotic front line. "Look at the pretty weeds...they're dead covers a lot of rhythmic ground, even moving into slightly-skewed Afro-Cuban territory a third of the way through for Kim Richmond's clarinet solo.
The nine compositions' titles are based on a whimsical piece of text written, and spoken in a dry manner by tuba player William Roper. On "Rotted vegetables...too late to pick we are introduced to the nine Neds of the album's title and the various actions that inspire the piece's names and the music itself. Do the titles really relate directly to the music? Is Dutz really writing the soundtrack to Roper's narrative? Hard to say, but in many ways it's irrelevant. The album is really about long-form composition, blended with a certain degree of improvisation, and so whatever the premise, it's quickly subsumed within the larger musical narrative.
As abstract as these pieces can sometimes beand "Wicked late for nite blooming...but not dusk, with its combination of vivid counterpoint and completely free improvisation section, clearly is on the abstruse sidethere's something oddly compelling about the whole album. Rather than judging it on the merit of individual pieces or particular passages within, Nine Gardeners Named Ned is best experienced as a whole, and with the kind of aesthetic that accepts longer form through-composition, rather than more succinct melodic development.
Brad Dutz- mallet percussion, hand percussion; Chris Wabich- drums, steel drum, percussion; Kim Richmond- b-flat clarinet; Bob Carr- bass clarinet; Sara Schoenbeck- bassoon; Ellen Burr- C flute, alto flute, piccolo; John Fumo- trumpet, piccolo trumpet; Kris Tiner- trumpet, flugelhorn; William Roper- tuba, spoken word; Trey Henry, Dean Taba, Anders Swanson- bass; Jasper Dutz- bass clarinet, b-flat clarinet.
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