|MP3 Sample: Apricot Seeds
"For every player who can pull off an album of percussion alone (for instance, Fritz Hauser, Gerry Hemingway, or Glen Velez), there are numerous others who, despite being fine players in traditional groups, are bombastic, self-indulgent, or, worst of all, boring when it comes down to just percussion. Drawing on a number of musical traditions including jazz, African, and classical music, Brad Dutz has enlivened the groups of such heavy improvisers as Vinny Golia and Michael Vlatkovich, but how does he fare when paired with only fellow percussionist John Holmes? Quite well, actually.
The two men wisely bring a huge number of instruments into play here, ensuring that the palette remains varied in a potentially static context. This includes some familiar instruments (drumset, bongos, tabla, etc.) as well as vibes, marimba, steel drums, and an encyclopedic range of gongs and cymbals.
The music is similarly diverse, ranging from African-sounding pieces to jazz tributes to ambient music made of sustained cymbal sounds. Contrary to what some might expect from two drummers, countable rhythms are absent on some tracks, particularly early in the album, and these tend to be less immediately interesting. Careful attention is rewarded by the precise interplay of metal discs and cupchimes on "Klem" or the atmospheric "Indiana" (not the jazz standard), but if listened to as background music these tracks will sound like semi-random clatter.
Things pick up for the album's second half with "Tribute to Elvin." Rather than imitating the man?s ferocious energy, Dutz and Holmes construct a minimal jazz waltz out of delicate cymbal work and expertly placed conga accents. It?s an intelligent and surprisingly fitting homage to a man who revolutionized jazz percussion.
A vibes-drums duet, "B-17 Apricot Seeds" will in some ways be the most conventional piece for free jazz listeners. Building from an abstract theme, the written and the improvised are virtually inseparable. Unpredictable both melodically and rhythmically, it nevertheless hints strongly at contemporary classical music and some of the AACM's work.
Evocative grooves characterize the later tracks, arguably the strongest on the album, and one wishes that a few of these more accessible tracks had been placed at the beginning of the album. These continually inventive pieces, particularly the propulsive "Pig On Cow" or the exquisite glass marimba-drums duet "Is She Mute," are almost enough to quell any misgivings I had about the album's first half.
Not quite intense enough to be consistently compelling, "My Bongo" should at least be heard by any percussionist. The beautiful second half makes up for an interesting but slightly flawed first. For the average listener, it is a quiet album that demands and rewards a few patient listens."
- -David Vance, http://www.jazzweekly.com/