Daniel Bennett Group: The Mystery at Clown Castle

Mike Oppenheim By

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The Daniel Bennett Group's 2015 release The Mystery at Clown Castle, the successor to 2013's Clockhead Goes to Camp, picks up where the latter left off with a fresh and distinct new feel. The personnel has changed, with Daniel Bennett joined by guitarist Nat Janoff, bassist Eddy Khaimovich, and drummer Matthew Feick. Special guests include pianist Jason Yeager and spoken word poet Britt Melewski.

Much like its predecessor, The Mystery at Clown Castle is catchy, memorable and unique. The songs are compact, all less than five minutes long, with evocative melodies and focused, expressive solos. All eleven tracks are Bennett compositions, with a few reprisals from previous releases. The album is a successful and enjoyable blend of jazz and indie rock sensibilities.

The album opens with "The Clown Chemist," a song that combines jazz guitar comping, and a slightly restrained, but still snarling, alto sax theme. It seamlessly transitions to a strummed guitar accompaniment under a Bennett flute solo reminiscent of rock guitar riffing. This juxtaposition establishes the mood for everything that follows.

"The Spinning Top Stood Still" features a captivating minor key melody and some of the best improvisations on the album. Bennett's alto sax solo masterfully balances tension with a sense of inevitability, before giving way to Janoff's grooving, distorted guitar solo, and Khaimovich's virtuosic bass solo.

"Nine Piglets" and "Uncle Muskrat" both appeared on Clockhead Goes to Camp, but here enjoy new and distinct renderings. "Nine Piglets" is treated with a more rock-oriented feel, and features an excellent, blues-inspired solo from Janoff. "Uncle Muskrat," featuring guest pianist Jason Yeager, is a rolling, gospel-infused interpretation of the original, and is a noteworthy tune by all standards.

Melewski's spoken word tracks offer a contrast to the melody-centric tendencies of the other tunes, but the group collectively explores the possibilities for poetic accompaniment, highlighting the spoken word without stealing the show.

The album is relatively short, totaling 38 minutes, but it lacks nothing in creativity, inspiration and enjoyability.

Track Listing: The Clown Chemist; The Spinning Top Stood Still; Paul Platypus; Minor Leaguer; Nine Piglets; Strange Jim and the Zebra; Morning; Inside the Outside Interlude; Flow; Uncle Muskrat; Outside the Inside Outro.

Personnel: Daniel Bennett: alto saxophone, flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, piano; Nat Janoff: electric guitar; Eddy Khaimovich: electric and acoustic bass; Matthew Feick: drums; Jason Yeager: piano; Britt Melewski: spoken word.

Title: The Mystery at Clown Castle | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Manhattan Daylight Media Group

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