Rich West

Bedouin Hornbook

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AllMusic Review by

What do you think of when you hear the words "Bedouin Hornbook," the title of this disk? For most of us, it is probably an image of independent, proud, wandering desert dwellers, probably from somewhere in the Middle East. The music here, though, bears little if any relation to these mythic Arabic wanderers, and instead, as Dorothea Grossman cleverly opines in her liner notes, tongue planted firmly in cheek, the words might just refer to the Los Angeles-based nomads comprising the band. As with so much from the pfMENTUM label, you have to expect the unexpected, and although this one is less radical than many of their other releases, it still incorporates those elements that keep the listener guessing. This is slightly left-of-center, quirky jazz, filtered by melody, and with a horn lineup of tuba, bass clarinet, and a trumpet that shies from the upper registers; there is a dark, sometimes brooding quality that lays a veil of noir. Rich West, the leader, is a drummer who composed (or in some cases, molded) all of the pieces, but as a performer he mostly subordinates his ego to the group sound. Each piece is different, and the combinations of instruments change regularly. The tuba and drums hold down the bottom, while the guitar acts in both a rhythmic and front line capacity. An example: What appears to be conch shells surrounded by computer pulses on "Twang" results from a delightful if surprisingly conservative blend of instrumentalists, which include Jeremy Drake, who contributes mightily on electric guitar, and Chris Heenan, who is able, remarkably, to coax didgeridoo-like pulses from the bass clarinet. Sometimes the group reminds the listener of the fast-paced work of Carlo Actis Dato, but with slightly less intensity, less kitsch, and greater diversity of sounds.

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