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Dylan Howe: Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie's Berlin

Sammy Stein By

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For the past 20 years or so drummer Dylan Howe has been a presence on the British music scene. He grew up in North London and when he was 13 he went to Ronnie Scott's to see drummer Buddy Rich and decided he wanted to be a jazz drummer. As the son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe music perhaps came easily to Howe but although he had some lessons he is largely self taught. Howe has been a window cleaner, shop assistant and played with various bands but in 1988 he began playing music regularly. After spells as a session musician he joined The Blockheads in 1997 and stayed until 2001. He plays with the Wilko Johnson Band and has had his own jazz quintet since 2003. The double CD Subterraneans: New Designs on Bowie's Berlin (Motorik Recordings 2014) revisits the instrumental cuts from David Bowie's 1977 albums Low and "Heroes."

The album opens with the title track—a strong line delivered from the start by the bass. Howe's drums are light, airy and ethereal. "Weeping Wall" is waltzy and there is some terrific interaction between the bass and drums. There is a lovely piano solo from Hodgson in the middle section followed by a discourse between Allen's sax and the drums, Howe's drums build and fade regularly until the track finishes. "All Saints" starts with a bass solo before building into a driving rhythm set by the drum and bass with ethereal sounds from the synthesizer drifting over the top. Then suddenly a swing section evolves from the ether with a gorgeous sax solo from Allen before the tune changes down a gear again, then back to wing— this is a highly inventive arrangement of the piece and huge fun. There is interplay in sections between the synthesizers and drums and changes of rhythm. Around the 6 minute mark the bass comes into its own, delivering a strong rhythm behind the other musicians before coming to the fore. The drums finally get a free rein towards the final section of the tune and then drums, bass and sax finish the track in controlled mayhem.

The rest of the tracks including the gentle "Some Are," "Neukoln Night," "Art Decade" and "Warszawa" follow and blend naturally into each other. The sax solo on "Warszawa" is superb and this is an atmospheric piece with the interplay between the sax and drums making compelling listening. The final track "Moss Garden" is enhanced by Steve Howe on the Koto—a Japanese stringed instrument—which adds an eastern essence. This is a first class album and Howe's arrangements are clever and innovative. He has also chosen a band of musicians who seem to be able to interpret his visions for the tracks and interact with each other to create seamless joins and interplay. Howe is generous in his arrangements, giving each musician plenty of solo time yet the album also demonstrates his consummate abilities as a drummer. A delight and surprise.

Track Listing: Subterranean; Weeping Wall; All Saints; Some Are; Neukoln Night; Art Decade; Warszawa; Neukoln Day; Moss Garden.

Personnel: Dylan Howe: drums; Mark Hodgson: double bass; Ross Stanley: piano; Julian Segal: saxophone; Brandon Allen: saxophone; Nick Pini: double bass; Steve Howe: Koto.

Title: Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie's Berlin | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Motorik Recordings


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