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Nick Dunston: Spider Season (Out of Your Head)

A review of the bassist's second album

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Nick Dunston: Spider Season (Out of Your Head)
The cover of Spider Season by Nick Dunston

Any recording that contains a track titled “Rewind Fee” has a substantial bit of throwback in its spirit, and that’s the case with Spider Season, the latest from fast-rising bassist Nick Dunston. But the era that Dunston evokes predates videocassettes and the arcane rules of the shops that rented them. Instead, the music on Spider Season gloriously recalls the experimental abandon of the loft-jazz era of the ’70s, when a flugelhorn/bassoon duet concert might be followed by a sextet of three cellos and three flutes; each band would aggressively assert how the new sonic mix extended the tradition.

Dunston is a sonic revolutionary in many ways, not the least of which is the instrumentation of his bands. The new recording showcases a trio featuring Kalia Vandever on trombone and effects plus DoYeon Kim on gayageum (a 12-string Korean zither); it’s an apt follow-up to his superb 2019 debut Atlantic Extraction, which featured a quintet with a frontline of guitar, flute, and violin.

The music here comes at you in concise blasts: Eight of the 11 pieces clock in at less than four minutes. Several songs, most notably “Vicious Daily Fashion,” “Inhale/Exhale,” and the title track, have a scrappy bluesiness that is reminiscent of Julius Hemphill’s small-group classics. Other pieces are richly atmospheric and evocative. The one extended work, “Thousand-Year-Old Vampire,” features densely layered solos and pithy interplay. Dunston’s band is unusual but accomplished enough to yearn for an old-fashioned multi-night engagement at a storied venue.

Learn more about Spider Season on Amazon and Apple Music.