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Dom Minasi: The Vampire's Revenge

Dan McClenaghan By

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With The Vampire's Revenge, guitarist Dom Minasi goes for it. This two-disc, 112-minute set takes its inspiration from a seemingly unlikely source—the vampire novels of Anne Rice—and results in one of the most ambitious and best free jazz outings of recent years. This huge undertaking includes some of the best avant guarde players on the scene—nineteen of them, not counting the core trio of Minasi, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Jackson Krall.

Dom Minasi, who put out a couple of albums on Blue Note back in the '70s before withdrawing from the music scene for a quarter century, began a creative reemergence in 2000 with Finishing Touches (CIMP), then moved ahead on his own CDM Records label with the critically-aclaimed Takin' the Duke Out (2001), Time Will Tell (2003), and Quick Response (2004), a daring reshaping of time-tested American Songbook standards and a bunch of vibrant originals. The latter recording may have missed the critics' year-end best lists simply by virtue of its late release date.

A guilty pleasure? That's the take here on those vampire novels. Minasi draws inspiration from Rice's writing and comes up with sprawling masterpiece of free jazz in the process. But he doesn't seem to take the whole thing too seriously, inserting a bit of humor into the darkness with tunes like "Who's Your Dentist?" and "Just One More Bite," the former featuring Joe Giardullo (soprano saxophone), Jason Kao Hwang (violin) and Tomas Ulrich (cello); the latter with vocalist Carol Mennie's building hysteria as she begs, in a gathering orgasmic direction over one of the roiling larger ensembe configurations, for "just-one-more... just-one-more... just-one-more... bite!"

The core trio anchors the sound, with just clarinetist Perry Robinson sitting in on the opener, "The Seduction." Three guests join the trio on "Who's Your Dentist?," while "The Transformation" boasts a band of nine, including Steve Swell (trombone), John Gunther and Ras Moshe (flutes), and Herb Robertson (trumpet). The back and forth between small and larger groupings continues throughout the set. While the sound—dark-toned, cacophonous with the larger ensembles—can be called "free," it seems that Minasi exerted a good deal of control beneath the freedom. He creates a facinatingly well-written group sound without extended solos, just shorter bursts of improvisation inserted throughout the written sections.

The Vampire's Revenge goes for it—and gets it, big time. A highlight? Let's pick the thirteen-minute "The Dark Side," with just the trio of Minasi, Filiano and Krall joined by pianist Matthew Shipp. Minasi's taunt, succinct guitar work snaps behind Shipp's unrestrained keyboard. Magnificent!

Track Listing: Disc 1: The Seduction, Who's Your Dentist, Just One More Bite, The Transformation, The Dark Side, The First Day. Disc 2: Blood Lust, the Hunt, Where You Gonna Go Where You Gonna Hide? The Vampire's Revenge.

Personnel: Dom Minasi: guitars; Ken Filiano: bass; Jackson Krall: drums. Guest Artists: Perry Robinson: clarinet; Joe Giardullo: soprano sax; Jason Kao Hwang: violin; Tomas Ulrich: cello; Carol Mennie: voice; John Gunther: reeds; Herb Robertson: trumpet; Steve Swell: trombone; Francois Grillot: bass; Ras Moshe: reeds; Matthew Shipp: piano; Mark Whitecage: alto sax; Borah Bergman: piano; Joe McPhee: tenor sax; Paul Smoker: flugelhorn; Sabir Mateen: tenor sax; Blaise Siwuta: alto sax; Peter Ratray: recitative; Barry Olson: conductor.

Title: The Vampire's Revenge | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: BCA Records

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