All About Jazz review by Mark Corroto

Dennis González NY Quartet – Dance of the Soothsayer’s Tongue (Live at Tonic) (CF 094)

Dennis González may the greatest trumpeter that you’ve never heard of. The Texas native, active some thirty years ago, has reawakened to provide a batch of stellar recordings. Dance of the Soothsayer’s Tongue (Live at Tonic), with his New York Quartet, might be one of the best jazz releases of 2007.

With nearly thirty releases as leader, his music has somehow always flown under the jazz radar. But ask musicians like Charles Burnham, Kidd Jordan, Nels Cline, Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, John Carter, Roy Campbell, Jr., Olu Dara, and Hamid Drake, all collaborators, and you’ll hear of his stellar talents. Maybe you’ve missed him because his best work has been released on the import labels Silkheart and Konnex. But now, with the internet, his outings on Portugal’s Clean Feed Records are readily available.

Dance of the Soothsayer’s Tongue is the second NY Quartet release, and includes saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Michael Thompson. 2004’s NY Midnight Suite was this band’s previous Clean Feed effort, recorded after a failed live recording date in 2003. González resurrected thirty-four minutes of that lost live session, and built this latest recording around them.

As a quartet, the band can create beauty out of seeming chaos. González’s trumpet, like that of Roy Campbell, Jr. or Dave Douglas, tends to become a clarion call among the freedom of a creative outfit. The disc opens with his a capella horn repeating just a few notes, as if playing a jingle or commercial tag. Soon he is joined by Thompson’s drums in a give-and-take dance of sheer joy. Throughout the disc, the interplay between Thompson and González is quite fertile.

The lengthiest track is the five-part “Afrikanu Suite,” a challenging and wide-ranging piece that allows for thoughtful introspection and wide-open improvisation. Helias and Eskelin are featured quite prominently, with Helias casting energy with his bowing technique and Eskelin filling in the spaces that this piece opens for its listeners.

The eleven-minute percussion piece, “Soundrhythium,” is more of a dance than a drum solo. The amazingly musical piece is awash in song rather than beat. The rarely heard Thompson is another undiscovered jewel of a musician.

The disc ends the very subdued and recessional “Archipelago of Days,” as González’s trumpet hovers about Thompson’s cymbal work and tom-toms. It might be relief, or a religious experience, hearing González’s NY Quartet for the first time; hopefully it’ll be heard from again real soon.


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  1. 1
    David Pleasant

    David Pleasant responds to your Review:

    “As static it reveals the superlative combination of compounds of matters; as a moving event it represents the most intricate time pattern in nature. Life is exquisitely a time thing like music. And beyond the plane of life may have come that harmony of motion
    which endowed the combination of compounds with life.”

    E. Everett Just, Ph. D
    Gullah-Geechee multi-cellular biologist

    “God is the greatest drummer”
    David Pleasant

    I recently saw the review of the album that I did w/ Patrick Brennen and Hill Greene in your web magazine. I generally don’t respond to critiques, however, the way that your writer dismisses, misses and with savage ignorance misunderstands rhythmic formats and legacies is uniquely profound.
    I understand that the industry has currently chosen to cannibalize itself in the history, jargon and nomenclature of its own production, but there are believe it or not, those of us out here who still represent and nurture classic forms that, even with a little study and/or respect, reveal intricacies, thoughts, modalities, cosmologies that do not belong to the mire of record industry categories/experiences/references. Your comments about me, David Pleasant, a person who plays from a cultural and historic condition of Gullah-Geechee, an African American primary experience that is rife with the “absoulute” essence of all African in America legacy reminding you of, respectfully, Paul Lovens is absolutely ridiculous and indicative of the tremendous collapse apparent in present day journalistic-like practice whereat laziness, arrogance and disregard have completely usurped respectful, conscientious and intelligent thought.

    Try and listen closer. Try and understand that there is a lot more room to go and a lot more understanding that can be cultivated when, especially in the parameters of category; free is actually sometimes free and is not a category.

    Hardships! is not a rap. It is a Rhap! Its delivery, content and character belong to a tradition of drumming, preaching and percussion that touches upon an extensive repository of cultural and historic material: valuable material. It is a people’s legacy that is vastly rich: not to be dismissed. If anything, please do forget the tragic “dumb- down” that is sinking peoples’ ability to see, seek and develop beyond the Jupiter-like gravity of corporate conditioning: yes, even in jazz.

    Listen to the Rhap!…not the rap.


    check out all about jazz feb. edition

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