That Old Devil "Duende"

That Old Devil "Duende"

by Rahsaan Clark Morris

copyright © 2005 Rahsaan Clark Morris

In the liner notes to one of Miles Davis' later Spanish-themed albums, I think produced by the multi-faceted bassist Marcus Miller, the writer noted that Davis had "duende," which literally translated means "goblin" or "ghost," but in the context of his Spanish-themed work, meant that his music had a spirit-ness to it, a serene or rambunctious Spanish feel.

David Bloom, composer and educator (he has run the Bloom School of Jazz for 30 years) and his collaborator, Cliff Colnot, have put together an album of large ensemble numbers and small group sets under that same title. The similarity to Davis' work, especially to the collaborative piece, Sketches of Spain — the introspective album done with the wonderful arrangements of Gil Evans — does not extend as much to theme as it does to structure. There is generally a feeling of "cool" throughout these proceedings, which consist of nine tracks, the longest lasting about six minutes.

And even though the tracks don't segue into each other as they do on the Davis-Evans collaborations, there is a sort of chordal simpatico that gives the aural illusion of segueing. In other words the collection, recorded over a seven-year period at three different studios — CRC, the Hinge, and the defunct Streeterville, all Chicago's North Side — is remarkably coherent.

Remarkable also because of the constraints of the world of independent music-making. Fire and Form Records, the label that Bloom has owned for several years, but released precious little on over that time, is an example of the problems inherent in trying to do business on ones' own. Resources — read "money" — are usually limited, studio time gets more expensive every year, especially with the advent of digital recording, mixing, and mastering, and musicians and promises come and go, but if you stick to it and stay focused, as Bloom and Colnot have obviously done, the result is a disc with some utterly beautiful set pieces, composed and orchestrated with care and compassion.

There are some standout performances from the local musicians assembled here. On "Duende," the title track, Rob Parton's flugelhorn introduces the cool swing theme, and Tom Garling's trombone solo propels the tune forward. "To The Source," a short latin romp, features some nice early bridge work from the ensemble of Parton on trumpet, Garling on trombone, and Linda Van Dyke on clarinet, followed by a hip trombone solo from Garling. The appropriately "South Light" is a breezy, quasi-samba piece replete with notable moments such as Rob Parton's short-but-sweet flugelhorn solo, another popping trombone solo from Garling, and little clarinet bursts throughout the chart. Jennifer Clippert's overdubbed flute, alto flute, and piccolo work during the later ensemble passages gives the tune that latin breeziness.

Rhythm section responsibilities are handled admirably by various groupings consisting of, on bass, Larry Kohut, Kelly Sill, and Ahmad Jamal sideman James Cammack. On piano for the set are Jim Trompeter, the aforementioned Ryan Cohan, Fred Nelson, and, on the majority of the tracks, John Campbell. Trap set duties are split between Dana Hall and Joel Spencer, first-call drummers to be sure. Rounding out the various tunes' ensembles are: Jim Gailloreto — tenor, alto, and soprano sax and flute; Scott Burns — tenor sax; Linda Van Dyke — bass clarinet and baritone sax; Paul Mertens — tenor and soprano sax; Nick Moran — bass clarinet; Mary Stolper — alto flute; Amy Mendillo — English horn; Joey Tartelle — trumpet; Tito Carillo — trumpet and Flugelhorn; Tim Coffman — trombone; Brian Culbertson — trombone; Katinka Kleijn — cello; Donald Simmons — percussion; and Ted Arkatz — congas/percussion toys.

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