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The Dickens Campaign: Oh Lovely Appearance

Glenn Astarita By

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The Dickens Campaign: Oh Lovely Appearance New York-based drummer Deric Dickens' southern roots and inspirations derived from legendary music archivist Alan Lomax morph into an Americana-dappled spectrum of modern jazz on this delightful trio date. The bass-less program summons a capacious platform, as the artists' rural and bluesy twists underscore the modern jazz vernacular. Lomax zigzagged across America in the 1930s with his Model T Ford to document America's unsung folk and blues delegation. But the group effectively projects a contemporary vibe, teeming with insightful storylines and wholehearted sentiment.

Cornetist Kirk Knuffke's soulful golden-toned lines remain a constant throughout. The trio executes quaint balladry with the delicacy of floating through a cloud, but guitarist Jesse Lewis' distortion-laced solo spots offer a jazz-fusion undercurrent on several pieces, sparking a sense of newness. With a mix of traditional pieces composed by rather obscure artists and originals, they highlight the expressive harmonic content of early roots music.

On Dickens' "I Should Have Known," the band imparts a bluesy swagger as Lewis turns up the heat via steely lines and tricky fingering maneuvers. With "Hallelujah," the band gels to a medium- tempo jazz-rock pulse, also yielding a downhome vibe. They follow it up with Knuffke's "Twice My Heavy," where Lewis' fuzz-toned and phased treatments up the ante as Dickens' helps raise the intensity level a few notches with peppery rolls and swashing cymbals hits. Here, Knuffke's brash, upper-register phrasing, activate pumping choruses and an in-your-face mode of operations.

The Dickens Campaign raises cultural awareness, but even if you take Lomax's legacy out of the picture, the album stands on its own. The musicians intertwine a sense of antiquity with a hip musical portraiture, underscored with the customary highs and lows, while tearing it up on occasion. Hence, the music breathes as the album's LP-length timeframe sparks a concise portraiture that is not overcooked or superfluous by design: they aim to entertain by enacting a new spin on the dusty old roads previously traversed.

Track Listing: As I Went Out For a Ramble; Roustabout Holler; Poem; My Baby Likes To Sing; Oh Lovely Appearance Of Death; I Should Have Known; Paul Motian; Hallelujah; Twice My Heavy; Waiting.

Personnel: Deric Dickens: drums; Kirk Knuffke: cornet; Jesse Lewis: guitar.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


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