Damon Short

Go Figure

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For Go Figure, Chicago-based drummer Damon Short assembled a seven-piece band: four horn players, including longtime partner Paul Scea and trumpeter Paul Smoker, guitarist Jim Yanda, bassist Larry Kohut, and himself. Recorded over two days in November 1997 (and released almost five years later), this album features Short's compositional skills, along with his drumming, of course. His pieces are best described as West Coast free jazz; they have that clarity in the themes and motifs and that free-form coolness in the soloing and arrangements. The album opens suitably with a drums feature, "Permutation." Short's agile rolls and bounces are accompanied by short tutti chords, almost big-band style. The disc contains three highlights, the first of which comes right after this introduction. The 14-minute "Go Figure" is a mean swinger of a tune. Yanda handles the theme; the rest of the band waltzes in and out of it with rich brass arrangements and quirky solo features. "Anesthesiology" (nine minutes) drags itself around in the most alluring fashion. Slightly sloppy and indecisive, as if it were waking up from chloroform-induced sleep, it turns out to be the entertaining track of the bunch, despite following the slowest tempo. The 25-minute "Gardens of Perception" takes listeners back to dead-serious avant-garde jazz, but of a compelling kind. Opening with Short on vibes, it includes a flute passage from Scea and a bass trumpet solo from Ryan Schultz. It goes through an array of shifting settings, its complex structure never getting in the way of genuine enjoyment. Recommended.

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