|Scott DuBois plays a fair amount of electric guitar on Monsoon , his debut as a leader, but it's when he plays acoustic that he makes his most coherent and provocative statements. Strumming, plucking and pulling strings as if he were rearranging them on the neck of his instrument, DuBois injects the classical sound of Segovia's Spain into jazz music. With a band featuring two horn players, each doubling on soprano, DuBois' tunes favor the upper end of the scale and intensify air that's already crackling with seriousness.
Regular cohort Loren Stillman solos earnestly on the CD's opening piece, “Lost Silence,” holding his own in opposition to featured performer Dave Liebman (who taught DuBois at the Manhattan School of Music). Liebman's hard-plastic tone ricochets off Stillman like ball bearings dropped on lacquer as the two navigate the Indian rhythms. Liebman's wooden flute changes the texture of “Rain on Rain” but extends the subcontinental motif, DuBois' electric guitar sounding like a piano, stretching the tempo with well-placed pauses and timely fills and compressing time with effusive runs. On “End,” Liebman's on-the-brink emotionalism makes for exciting counterpoint to DuBois' classical virtuosity. Tenorman Jason Rigby spells Liebman on “She Brought Life,” and his strained, probing lines show the way for Stillman as the two engage in tight ensemble playing, bassist Thomas Morgan laying down the groove and DuBois mimicking him with six- string ostinati.
The back half of Monsoon is dominated by DuBois' electric guitar, which supplies atmosphere to such reflective compositions as the three-part “Acceptance Suite” and the buoyant ”Float.” Blistering solos don't seem to be the point here. These originals favor group work that thrives on close listening and the youthful energy of players who have come up together and earned the respect of a mentor. The plugged-in portion of Monsoon is skillful and proficient, but it's when DuBois goes unplugged that the fuses threaten to blow.