Monday, December 28, 2015

Dave McDonnell Group The Time Inside a Year

While no longer resident in Chicago, alto saxophonist and composer, Dave McDonnell, is a product of the fertile Windy City music scene (jazz and rock), playing in a number of genre-crossing groups. Influenced by Fela Kuti, his playing may be rooted more in bop than funk, but as annotator Arief Sless-Kitain suggests, the layered sequences and interlocking rhythms so essential to Kuti's music factors heavily in McConnell's songbook. On the second Dave McDonnell Group album, "The Time Inside a Year" (Delmark Records), he draws on these interests, and touchstones as varied as Thomas Mapfumo, Jon Hassell and Fletche Henderson. Also included are interludes with cello-enhanced electronics reflecting his current interest and teaching of such.

Sless-Kitain observes that McDonnell has "a desire for his own music to be immediate and reactive, minful of the pulse and body's innate rhythm but also cerebral." To achieve this on his compositions he is joined by a quartet of guitarist Chris Welcome and the rhythm section of bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Frank Rosaly with Jason Adasiewicz adding vibes to two selections and Nate Lepine playing tenor on one. Three of the eleven selections are his three-movement piece "Aespe," with his computer generated tones interlaced with Tomeka Reid's Cello.

There is plenty of energy and a intriguing mix of structure and free playing. Certainly the tone is set on the fervent drive of the opening "Bullitt," with McDonnell's hyper-charged alto (with a very bluesy tone) riding over Welcome's chording and the remarkable rhythm duo. Welcome's guitar solo provides a contrast in its clean, less assertive tone. In contrast "Vox Orion," one of the two compositions with Adasiewicz, opens with Welcome playing a vamp that is the foundation for this with the shimmering vibes adding embellishments as well as brightens the mood of this which also has some fierce alto sax. "Baker's Man" opens and closes with with bluesy groove bookending some free playing with Welcome suggesting Sonny Sharrrock as the leader's blistering alto helps develop the performances intensity.

On "Discovery of the Ancient Geologist," Rosaly imaginatively develops a solo against Abrams' bass vamp, before Lepine and the leader state the theme to ride this out. "Brandywine" is a hard swinging number with O'Donnell taking no prisoners with his energized sax. The three movements of "Aespe," with cello against the computer tones, have an a ethereal mood that is a refreshing contrast to the heated playing on the quartet performances here.

McDonnell's is a very passionate saxophonist who plays with plenty of fervor although there are times one wishes he would relax a bit and leave a little space in his playing. Guitarist Welcome and the free-bop interplay with the rhythm provides contrast and a bit of breathing space to the music. In any event, there is plenty to stimulate and engage a listener on "The Time Inside a Year."

I received my review copy from Delmark.

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