Too often jazz is presented to the public in one of two extremes. It is either so homogenized and strives for a pop audience that it become elevator music, or it is presented with such excess and experimentation that it becomes accessible only to other musicians. Daniel Bennett avoids these extremes by drawing inspiration from folk music and then presenting it in a minimalist ensemble that, despite the avoidance of excess, still manages to explore complex musical ideas and themes. The result is a marvelously hypnotic musical trip that will speak to the jazz enthusiast as well as the casual listener.
Peace & Stability Among Bears is the third and final chapter in his “musical fables” of bears. Bennett, who plays alto sax, flute and clarinet is joined by his band, including Chris Hersch on guitar, Jason Davis on bass and Rick Landwher on drums. Together they present an airy, melodic musically subtle and hypnotic folk-jazz collection. The album is notable in that Bennett has a knack for writing irresistible hooks on the alto, flute or clarinet, which are also daring musically in the use of polyphony and complex drum rhythms and interplay with the other pieces, which aren’t necessarily the average jazz staple, nor folk staple.
Add to this the interaction of the musicians; the way Bennett and Hersch’s guitar play off of and around each other, in circular form, the joyful over all feeling and dream like quality, the subtle changes from light and airy jazz, to folk, to country music sounds and touching on early jazz influences – almost New Orleans, almost 1920s flapper.
This is established on the first track, “The Local Sherriff” and continues on through “The Lost Treasure Of Lunta”, a particularly airy track with a minimal, but theme setting drum tack with some percussive surprises. “Arizona” has the cool flavor of a nearly ‘western” theme. You can almost picture the cattle slowly moving through a desert and then being moved slightly faster as they near their destination.
The “Ghost” is a trance like ballad and the subtle guitar is just perfect as it explores the melody. “Andrews Variation” is an odd, almost stutter step tune with the sax laying down basically the same theme played from different points in the scale against some interesting, tantalizing drum. The guitar holds the same circular base before coming front stage towards the end, to make the tune both feel slightly unstable and satisfying all at the same time.
One of the darker songs on the album is “The Village’ which opens with some dissonance from the percussion and odd sound effects that grow in intensity as it layers on and overcomes an increasingly frantic sax.
The closing tune is “Bears In Covered Wagons” which makes use of a satisfying funk-fusion presentation with a simple guitar line, and Bennett’s interplay. This is a fun album, both musically interesting, yet easy for a casual and airy listen. The use of circular patterns throughout lend a hypnotic trance like feel to the folk-jazz realm where Bennett has taken up residence. It’ll pull you in to the world of metaphorical bears, but it won’t overwhelm you with displays of drama and excess.
Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved