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Denominators: Red Balloon

Ernest Barteldes By

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Denominators: Red Balloon Denominators is a new band comprised of three highly competent musicians who try to look outside the box in their approach to jazz, allowing classical, funky and tropical elements into their sound without being too eclectic. On Red Balloon they work exclusively through original compositions (mostly by flutist Michel Gentile), taking advantage of the quantity of open spaces that their setup provides.

On the opening track "baritone there are a lot of polyrhythms with a clear Latin influence, the kind of stuff that makes bass players crazy—which might be one of the reasons they don't have one in the first place. The song, played in 6/8 time, is dominated mostly by the percussion, with cleverly placed guitar insertions. The flute gives the tune a certain bossa nova undertone without necessarily sounding Brazilian. On "Vulnerable, they take a more avant-garde direction; guitarist Nate Radley plays odd chords throughout, while drummer Roland Schneider fills in with percussive effects, giving the piece a certain mystic feel. Radley's talents are showcased on his "When The World Was Ruled By Fishes, a highlight at their January 14 appearance at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.

At the concert, the band played songs from the album and some new material. One of the new tunes was the Debussy-esque "Empty Sky," which has a chord progression remiscent of the Beatles' "Because. Radley showed a lot of creativity, using each moment to insert something new. "Decomposition took the band in a more funky direction, the guitar serving as a bass most of the time, resulting in little wiggle room either for Radley or Schneider to be too creative and leaving most of the hard work for Gentile.

On stage, the group seemed to be extremely structured. Neither Radley nor Gentile took their eyes off the sheet music during the entire gig, and the feel was more of a classical music event than a jazz concert. There were a lot of empty spaces to fill, and in live performance they were a bit unable to do that. Asked why they don't have a bassist, Schneider just said that they began playing together and felt comfortable with the sound. "This is the band, he told us.

Denominators could certainly benefit from the contribution of a bassist who could elevate this very talented group to even greater heights.


Track Listing: Bari; When The world Was Ruled By Fishes; Vulnerable; Kora; Red Balloon; Cutin Paste; Yakuza Blues; 31; Quorum; Uzza Huzza, L'Homme Invisible.

Personnel: Michel Gentile: flute; Nate Radley: guitar; Roland Schneider: drums.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Modern Jazz


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