Jazz music, news and views

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dom Minasi: The Vampire's Revenge

Lagging significantly behind my colleagues Etnobofin and Straight, No Chaser, I wanted to draw your attention to Dom Minasi's latest album, The Vampire's Revenge. One might expect something cliched or cheesy when one pops an album inspired by the occult literature of Anne Rice into the stereo, but Minasi's vision is actually quite fresh, and his daring improvisations are sincere.

In fact, while many guitarists might be tempted to reach for their effects pedals to find the most Transylvanian sound effects possible, Minasi's sound is actually quite naked; the listener can focus wholly on his statements rather than sonic peculiarities (though those have their place, too!). Minasi and his cohorts are never sparse in their ideas, though. Centered around his core trio with bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Jackson Krall, Minasi recruits several top-tier improvisers to tackle his compositions with all the rawness they can muster on this double-disc.

Clocking in at almost two hours, Revenge houses a wealth of sounds both written and spontaneous. The long-toned arco-bass-and-reed swells of "The Seduction" are punctuated by a simple, sinister three-note melody with Minasi's 12-string acoustic guitar providing some jangly dissonance. His muted but furious exchanges with Perry Robinson on clarinet are harrowing. The claustrophobic, creeping arrangement for reeds, brass and strings on "Just One More Bite" gives way to an anguished dialogue between reedman John Gunther and trumpeter Herb Robinson. Minasi's electric guitar is warm and warbly, while vocalist Carol Mennie's startling cries bring the group tension to terrifying (yet humorous) heights. Throughout, some cathartic tutti sections balance the collective improvisations. The close of the tune finds the instrumentalists coaxing some extreme sounds from their axes (harmonics, ponticello bowing, notes at the ends of their registers, etc.). "The Dark Side" finds the core trio joined by pianist Matthew Shipp, whose dazzling and percussive approach gives the tune an unbelievable depth. Borah Bergman's own piano performance on "Blood Lust" is just as stimulating; he and Minasi trade some visceral statements before a fanfarish ensemble section. The horn interplay of tenorist Joe McPhee, flugelhornist Paul Smoker and trombonist Steve Swell on "The Hunt" is volcanic before Minasi delivers a brief blues-inflected statement in the seventh minute before engaging in conversation with Smoker's horn, then McPhee's. Jackson Krall's brushwork here is expert and attentive.

The seeds of The Vampire's Revenge were first sewn a decade ago with the title track becoming a staple in Minasi's songbook, and, like all inspired works, it has grown significantly since its genesis (with much deliberation and perserverance from Minasi, of course). His vision is ambitious, but this record hardly falls short of any expectations: fiery and fresh performances, varied instrumental settings, a balance between compositions and improvisation and, not to mention, a healthy dose of humor.

The Vampire's Revenge

More Minasi listening:
"DMP" from Time Will Tell
"Quick Response" from Quick Response

Read interviews with:
All About Jazz
Jazz Guitar Life

Interview clips from his website


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