Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CD Review: Kermit Driscoll - Reveille

Kermit Driscoll
(19/8) http://www.nineteeneight.com/

A few months ago I got a copy of Miles Davis' Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970) CD. One of the more intriguing aspects of the performance is that Miles was opening a bill that included the Steve Miller Band and Neil Young & Crazy Horse. What did the counterculture cats at the Fillmore think of this band, which was playing some of the most seering music of Davis' whole career? Were they out getting high before their bands came on or were they in their seats getting their minds blown?

I mention this because I wondered, during second half of "Thank You," what would happen if Kermit Driscoll's quartet wound up on a bill ata place like Philadelphia's Theater of Arts, opening for, let's say, Arcade Fire. (I was trying to come up with a popular band that draws open-minded listeners.) The song is fairly subdued, based on a steady riff. Then around 3:30, Bill Frisell kicks on the distortion and tears it up like no one else can. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta starts to go off as well, and things fall apart beautifully. Instead of going back to restate the head, bassist Driscoll opts to end the tune there. Smart thinking.

I could see the hipsters in the audience being skeptical of these 50-somethings (although pianist Kris Davis is a bit younger) because they're ageist, quite often. But when they find out these guys can shred better than most guys half their age, it can change some minds.

It can also make you wonder if this music can be considered jazz.

Actually I go through this mental process a few times a year, when an album comes out that's really strong and is somehow tied to jazz (the players' past affiliations or a cover tune, usually) but really sounds like it exists in its own universe. Chris Potter, Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa are names to spring to mind at the moment as people who elicit this response. Driscoll, the bassist probably best known for his work in Frisell's band, has done the same thing on Revielle, his first even album as a leader.

Not all of the album falls into the same rocking category as "Thank You," although their reading of Joe Zawinul's Peter-Gunn-with-a-club-foot groove "Great Expectations" (first heard on Miles' Big Fun) ups the ante even further. In fact some of the songs have something of a country feel to them. "Boomstatz" combines that country twang with a little bit of funk, over a harmonic format that takes some great left turns, especially with the vamp in the bridge. "Farm Life," which Driscoll wrote two decades ago, also has an Americana vibe thanks to some crisp guitar work. The pastoral feeling continues with "Martin Sklar," one of the few pieces where the leader gives himself some time in the spotlight.

Take all these tunes together with the traditional "Chicken Reel" (a tune that will be remembered by anyone who knows Warner Brothers cartoons) and much of the album might seem like a balance between Americana and electric jazz. But Driscoll has some tricks up his sleeve, like Davis' use of prepared piano in "Ire" and her liberties with tempo in "Hekete" which concludes with another bright Frisell melody.

So maybe this band isn't exactly equipped to open for the Arcade Fire. I'd still like to see it happen. A crazy billing like that could have some serious reverberations.

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