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Andy Biskin Quintet: Dogmental

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Not strictly a single-medium guy, Biskin works in film as well as playing clarinet and fronting his band. The eclecticism that might lead him to this double-headed career certainly leaves its mark on Biskin’s debut disc, Dogmental. Throughout the CD, Biskin draws from the waltz, polka, funk, military brass band, klezmer, Dixieland, small group swing and, most prominently on “Off Peak,” Mulligan-style contrapuntal cool.

The wild abandon with which he throws this all together suggests that Biskin has a thing for zany cartoon music, say Raymond Scott or Carl Stalling. But even with mirthful drummer Matt Wilson on hand, Biskin ends up with some controlled, staid results. Amiably turtle-necked rather than loose-limbed, his music lacks the manic energy or off-kilter melodies that spark similar projects. On “Rondel,” for example, Biskin’s arrangement tends to be a little too precious; the arranged polyphony in the horns sounds closer to Canadian Brass play hot jazz than Kid Ory. Biskin himself manages to sound buttoned-up even when he growls. Biskin’s trombonist, Bruce Eidem, is a real find, however: his playing is both delicate and ribald.

As a player and composer, Biskin seems better suited to the slow stuff. The band really shines on the fey, “String of Pearls”-like ballad “Little Elsa,” and on “My Sentiments Exactly,” where Biskin solo lingers to great effect in his clarinet’s rich lower register.