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Dom Minasi: Takin' the Duke Out

AAJ Staff By

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Though guitarist Dom Minasi was born on the same day as the great Wes Montgomery, the resemblance stops there. Minasi refuses to abide by bop's conventions of harmony, rhythm, or melody—instead, he breaks music down into its smallest parts and reassembles them in a rough, angular collage of sound. Fragments of melody, repeated trills, and leaping crescendoes define a musical style which owes huge debts to abstract expressionism.

On Takin' the Duke Out, Minasi tackles a six-pack of Ellingtonian tunes and performs a visionary deconstruction. The analogies to Dolphy and Taylor do not do his approach justice: it's highly individual, unique, and systematic. Fortunately he has found two willing and eager comrades in bassist Ken Filiano and Jackson Krall to join him on these trips out. The performance, recorded at New York's Knitting Factory in April, 2001, retains a fresh, live quality.

One of the striking features of Takin' the Duke Out is the way Minasi bridges the formal structure of these standards with free improvisation. For example, on the opener ("Satin Doll"), he leads off with clean chords, moving forward gently but insistently. And then things start getting complicated. After a lengthy trip into a tangled netherworld of group improvisation, the trio returns effortlessly to a reprise of the theme. With just a hint of dissonance, Minasi ends the tune on a rapid-fire note flurry.

And then it's off to "Don't Get Around Any More," where a similar pattern emerges. No obvious relationships stand out between the refrain and the interspersed improvisation, but somehow the overall sound of each piece remains consistent. Although Minasi has untouchable chops, he doesn't mistake speed for intensity. Bassist Ken Filiano offers twisting, angular support, and when he takes the occasional solo, he implies harmony and melody together through a sequence of assertively placed notes. And Jackson Krall, an experienced hand at free jazz drumming, understands the role of color and the unstated pulse. Overall, this group is coherent, inventive, and inspiring—a rare combination, and one worthy of repeated listening. Takin' the Duke Out is likely to open a lot of ears to Minasi's visionary sound, which deserves greater attention.

Track Listing: Satin Doll; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good; Take the A Train; Solitude; It Don't Mean a thing If It Ain't Got That Swing (Total Time: 53:44).

Personnel: Dom Minasi: Guitar; Ken Filiano: Bass; Jackson Krall; Drums.

Title: Takin' The Duke Out | Year Released: 2002


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