The Daniel Bennett Group's trio of bear-related albums, the "Bear Thompson Trilogy," reaches its lovably eccentric conclusion with Peace And Stability Among Bears, a delightful collection of Americana-flavored jazz tunes. The trilogy started with 2007's A Nation Of Bears and 2008's The Legend Of Bear Thompson (both on Bennett Alliance), but while all three are linked by reeds player/composer Bennettand, of course, bearsthe lineup has changed a little over time. This album features a quartet, with guitarist Chris Hersch, bassist Jason Davis and drummer Rick Landwehr bringing their talents to the project.
The pervading mood is one of good vibes. These tunes grab the attention from the get go, and Bennett's characteristically snaky melodies and driving, insistent time signatures generate a positive vibe on almost every track. "The Lost Treasure Of Lunta" brings this combination of fluid melody and insistent rhythm to a fine art, driving the tune enthusiastically towards the gentler, more spacious, beauty of "Arizona." The first part of this tune is a folksy, down-home duet between Bennett's clarinet and Hersch's gently rolling guitar. The second, kicked off by the entry of Landwehr's solid drum pattern, is more upbeat, but still seems tailor made for a genteel country dance in the 1890s.
The general mood of good humor disappears for a few minutes on "The Village." This is a more disquieting piece, with a free, avant-garde influence. Some aggressive drumming from Landwehr and a more combative relationship between Bennett (on clarinet) and Hersch create a musical tension. "Open" retains the pace and drive of "The Village," but the mood is once more light and peaceful, with some fluid interplay between all four musicians. "Bears In A Covered Wagon" is slightly more idiosyncratic, taking its style from dub reggae, with Davis and Landwehr sounding as if Lee "Scratch" Perry might have slipped into the production booth.
Peace And Stability Among Bears is a fine conclusion to the tale of Bear Thompson. Bennett has a genius for creating immediately affecting melodies, which the group then develops into small masterpieces. The end of Bennett's ursine era might be a cause for some sadness, but hopefully his next projects will retain his slightly eccentric and hugely enjoyable take on writing and performance.
Track Listing: The Local Sheriff; The Lost Treasure of Lunta; Arizona; Ghost; Andrew Variations; Dogs Of Our Time; Farmer Joe Was A Bear; The Village; Open; Bears In A Covered Wagon.
Personnel: Daniel Bennett: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Chris Hersch: guitar; Jason Davis; bass; Rick Landwehr: drums.
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