String Theory: Dissonance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder & If You Should Go

John Sharpe By

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The Dom Minasi String Quartet
Dissonance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Konnex Records

Tomas Ulrich's Cargo Cult
If You Should Go
Cadence Jazz Records

Guitarist Dom Minasi first assembled his string quartet with Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Tomas Ulrich (cello) and Ken Filiano (bass), so that he could play music from his acclaimed The Vampire's Revenge (CDM, 2006) live. However, while Minasi allows ample room, it is within the framework of through-composed pieces, made up of interlocking four-part arrangements, reminiscent of a classical string quartet. On "The Pasadena Two Step," Minasi makes full use of his formidable resources, interweaving varying combinations with the full ensemble, including a splendid duet for assertive guitar and mercurial violin. At times an austere chamber quality prevails, but it is lightened by a strong rhythmic conception, whereby a motif is passed around on the sprightly "Tumorology" or the unison lines of "Zing, Zang, Zoom!" "Dissonance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder" is a great title, well served by the spicy kaleidoscopic brew it signifies and one, like this entire album, from which the listener can draw sustenance for multiple sittings.

Ulrich makes his leadership debut on If You Should Go, recording what was actually the first live performance of his trio Cargo Cult. Perhaps due to both the compact instrumentation and the newness of the ensemble, there is a lot of space for individual expression. After the leader's splintered banshee wails, "The Last to Know" introduces the band with Ulrich's stately theme framing a panoramic arco feature from bassist Michael Bisio and a fast picking guitar excursion by Rolf Sturm over a somber cello and bass backcloth. Ulrich's aerobatics also feature prominently on Sturm's romantically lush "Rains End" while Bisio steps out in a passionate pizzicato spot on the same piece, but elsewhere anchors the trio. On Ulrich's aching title track, Sturm fashions chiming runs, bent notes and volume swells into winning garb, cushioned by the rich harmonies. Though the up-close recording amply registers the sheer physicality of strings against wood, it sometimes captures audience noise too, making a studio date the hopeful next stop for this virtuoso unit.

Tracks and Personnel

Dissonance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Tracks: The Pasadena Two Step; The Dark Side; Green! Green! They're Green!; Dissonance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder; Slow Dance In The Bottomless Pit; Tumorology; Zing, Zang, Zoom!.

Personnel: Dom Minasi: acoustic guitar; Jason Kao Hwang : violin; Ken Filiano: double bass; Tomas Ulrich: cello.

If You Should Go

Tracks: The Last to Know; So Do You; Rains End; Existential Fragility; If You Should Go

Personnel: Tomas Ulrich: cello; Rolf Sturm: electric & acoustic guitar; Michael Bisio: bass.

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