March 1997

Mitch Seidman
Ants In a Trance
Brownstone Records

Guitarist Seidman has a streak of playful curiosity in him which piques him to explore unusual combinations and ruminative material. He assembles an oddly resonant and introspective (though heretofore unexplored) chamber sound, drawing on Lennie Hochman's bass clarinet, Harvie Swartz's string bass, and Ella Lou Weiller's viola. No percussion, no treble voice but his own mid-ranged fretwork. It's all quite mellow and moody, occasionally sumptuous, and unspectacularly tasteful.

Swing is implied more than it is stated. This sidestepping of the obvious is no more in fashion than is the oblique situational joke among TV comics-more of whom prize ribald one-liners-but it does stick. The only "standards" are Brubeck's finest waltz, "In Your Own Sweet Way" (a lithe guitar solo) and the opening, Monk's rare Latin gem, "Bye-Ya" (smoothed over). Seidman instead taps a vein of witty composer/players with New England roots and a taste for genial galumphing: bassist Bob Neiske's "Jump" (jounces spookily like Alfred Hitchcock's theme), saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase's "If I Could" (hits bluesy peaks and valleys), guitarist Attila Zoller's "Homage To O.P." (draws incisive unison lines around walking bass).

The prime inspiration is Jimmy Giuffre-clarinetist/composer/NEC prof with whom Seidman studied-whose "Frog Legs" splays every which way but slyly imposes its own integral blues logic and sensibility-a countrified Monk. Seidman's own stuff recalls the 1956 Giuffre trio (or parts of it): low register clarinet, Jim Hall's guitar, and bass. "Like Someone" is a duo with Swartz, "Reflecting On Jimmy" picks out lean boppish lines with nicely rounded tone and technique, and the title track knits all hands in a spunky cat's cradle. There's even a nice bit of "free" tomfoolery towards the end.

Originally published in March 1997
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