Takin' the Duke Out
Guitarist Dom Minasi continues his small-scale comeback with this trio recording of Ellington tunes, and at least superficially, the title lays it out. With bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Jackson Krall on hand, Minasi runs though six classic Ellington songs, taking very large liberties along the way. But Duke fanatics take note: the trio really isn't interested in exploring the inner space of these tunes. Rather, Minasi and company weave fragments and distorted passages of familiar Ellingtonia into their long, murky, free improvisations-casting the great man as a presence instead of looking to him as a musical model.
Minasi's trio chugs along with a cloudy sound, thanks in large part to Minasi's preference for a classic if slightly watery tone and a predilection for burbling, stringy, hornlike lines (though the unthrilling recording quality also has something to do with it). He and Filiano divide the Ellingtonian moments between them. As one works on a melody, the other finds an obtuse way around the spectrum of expected support. On "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," Minasi runs through the chords nonchalantly as Filiano absolutely burns through the changes. Here and elsewhere, Krall's constantly shifting beat works against any steady groove Minasi and/or Filiano establish. "I Got It Bad" is taken at a staggering, slow gait, with Minasi droning his way through the melody over Filiano's dour arco quarter notes. "Take the 'A' Train" runs for two minutes before the group even acknowledges its source material, and then only in Filiano's bowed bass, which caps each melodic phrase with ragged screeching. But Minasi isn't so staunch an avant-gardist that he can't offer a respectful solo rendition of "Solitude" before he's done.