ELEGANT MU.S.IC OF DAVE LESLIE FILLED TO 'THE BRIM'
by Michael Williams
American Reporter Correspondent
("The Brim". Dave Leslie. Corvallis, OR: 2001, Louie Records.
Playing Time: 48:36)
OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Louie Records, founded by percussion guru David Storrs, has released some ear-catching material over the past year. Storrs' Califas Studio in Corvallis, Oregon is proving to be a laboratory for intriguing improvisational collaborations from some highly gifted musicians in the Pacific Northwest.
Fueled by Storrs' effusive style, most of Louie's discs, including recent works like "Objects" by the Rich Halley Trio and "Sleep Dep" by Boundary Issues, tend to be freewheeling affairs with an emphasis on unbridled blowing.
Dave Leslie's "The Brim" is a more constructed, arranged effort that paid off with elegant results. Leslie's skillful use of electronic keyboard textures entwined with Storr's percussive tapestries and spiced with saxophone melodies are strongly reminiscent and indebted to the pioneering jazz-rock fusion of keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter in Weather Report."
A unique facet of the "The Brim" is the intriguing use to which Leslie puts the accordion, an instrument rarely used in jazz. The instrument is becoming increasingly recognizable thanks to the efforts of Flaco Jimenez, Los Lobos and various zydeco exponents. Leslie uses the instrument in a judicious manner that showcases its unique timbre and melodic beauty without resorting to pyrotechnical exhibitionism. His approach also calls to mind that Zawinul began as an accordionist in his native Austria and frequently coaxes accordion-like interludes from his electronic arsenal.
The accordion is especially prominent on the CD's opener, "Crackers 'n' Sherbert," a sly tango propelled by Storrs on congas, "Linger Awhile/Pass," an easy-going waltz featuring bassist Page Hundemer and the title piece, which is a medium-paced rhumba in six-eight that again features a strong Afro-Latin undercurrent supplied by Storrs. The debt to Weather Report is most obvious on "As Easy As" and "In the Now." "As Easy As" features a tart melodic line played on soprano sax by Tom Bergeron, synthesizer and accordion effects, and Storrs' multiple layers of percussion.
"In the Now," with its dense, percussive drive recalls a piece on Weather Report's "Sweetnighter" album, called "Will." Leslie uses a synthesizer to produce a bell-like ring used to state the melody, while Storrs supplies an exotic interlude by attacking a Thai string-percussion instrument called a "kim."
Storrs is center-stage on "Second Smartest of All Dogs" in which he creates a coercive Afro-Cuban rhythm by overdubbing different kinds of hand drums and percussive effects, a technique that he used in his evocative solo album, "Another Thing" on Louie Records. Steve Willis pitches in on guitar.
"Gnarles" is a shuffling groove in the vein of Benny Golson's "Killer Joe." Bergeron and trombonist Keller Coker team up on the melody setting the stage for Coker to unleash a pungent solo with the help of a plunger.
The track that takes the cake as the album's wackiest is "Lucky Fella," which is described in the liner notes as "a post-modern tarantella." It's a whimsical march with careening lines by Bergeron on altro sax and Mike Curtis on clarinet that unexpectedly lurches into a boogie-woogie shuffle with Coker belting out a swinging solo.
The piece exemplifies the charms and surprises that enrich "The Brim." While highly polished and tight, "The Brim" is infused with a spirit of exploring new textures and colors that reflects contemporary interests in amalgamating diverse concepts and sounds while rekindling the early days of jazz-rock fusion when the music was deeply concerned with exploring new textures and colors.
Michael J. Williams is a journalist living in Oceanside, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.