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Drumheller: Wives

Matthew Sumera By

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The Canadian jazz and improv scene has long been dreadfully overlooked. Apart from The Victoriaville (FIMAV) and Guelph Festivals, it is still the case that many fans rarely if ever equate great jazz and improvised music with the land of the maple leaf. Hopefully Drumheller's Wives will help to rectify that situation some.



Operating out of Toronto's crucial improvisation scene, Drumheller creates music in touch with a variety of strands of contemporary jazz, from Frisell's ruralism to The Claudia Quintet's post-jazz. Eminently quirky in their own right, Drumheller's music is both grandly swinging and bizarre at turns. Much credit goes to the inventive playing of Eric Chenaux on guitar, who easily moves from straight lines to crushed flailings of indeterminate origin. Neither Sonny Sharrock nor Arto Lindsay, and yet oddly reminiscent of both, Chenaux's outer reaches suggest a profound path for continued development.

Brodie West (alto sax) and Doug Tielli (trombone) make their own mark felt, with striking slurs and smears, both playing wonderfully perverse backup and stepping up to deliver solid statements of their own. Particularly brilliant moments include Tielli's theremin-like bends in "Skullsplitter and the front-line interplay between Chenaux and West on "Porch. "However Wildly We Dream is a torch song for the new millennium, a sensuous, off-kilter little swing. Nick Fraser (drums) and Rob Clutton (double bass) manage, amid all the interplay, to make their own statements, solidly providing a backdrop for the absurdity and sincerity to ensue.

Beyond the individual players' talents, Drumheller's real strength lies in the ensemble interactions. On "Couch," the instruments are blurred together in a sound entirely its own. Clearly the members of Drumheller know each others' idiosyncrasies well, and the total result is as striking, iconoclastic, and superb as any group pushing the boundaries of jazz and improvised music today.

This is, first and foremost, highly enjoyable music, clearly created in love (and sometimes awe) of the sounds an instrument can make—indicative of ample chops, musicality, and humor. Here's to continued adventures.


Track Listing: Drip Drop March; Acrobat; Underside of a Table; Skullsplittter; Porch; C.T.; Sketch #7; However Wildly We Dream; Couch; Mr. Spleen; Calypso; Sketch #5; Driver Down; Dlues for a Bright Day.

Personnel: Eric Chenaux: electric guitar; Rob Clutter: double bass; Nick Fraser: drums; Doug Tielli: trombone; Brodie West: alto saxophone.

Title: Wives | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Rat Drifting


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