Brian Drye's "Bizingas" is your modern trombone record, with an eye towards rock and the heart of free jazz and twelve tone composition. Traveling from odd meter thrashers to pensive minimalist vamps, stopping at a ballad (a la Duke Ellington) along the way, Bizingas strikes equanimity between the simple and complex, the energetic and reserved.
Huddled together in the dingy basement of a botanica in NYC's Lower East Side, drummer Ches Smith, trombonist Brian Drye, cornetist Kirk Knuffke and guitarist Jonathan Golberger met regularly for a series of improvised sessions. Brian Drye assembled Bizingas in 2008.
A resident of Brooklyn, NY, Brian Drye hails from Rhode Island where he was exposed to jazz by his father Howard, a professional jazz saxophonist. Brian has shared the stage with luminaries such as Clark Terry and toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Upon his arrival to NYC in 1997 via the University of Miami, he has worked with artists such as John Hollenbeck, Andrew D’Angelo, Josh Roseman, Briggan Krauss and Mark Helias. Although Bizingas marks Mr. Drye's first outing as a leader he is no newcomer to producing and recording ensembles. His impressive discography includes the improvising chamber group The Four Bags and the electric quartet Slog among others.
As evident throughout the album, Mr. Drye has interests reaching far beyond the hallowed walls of jazz including Frank London's Klezmer Brass, Slavic Soul Party, Banda Sinaloense De Los Muertos and Nation Beat. Additionally he has performed with Arcade Fire, Stew and the Negro Problem, Firewater, The Four Tops, Joan Baez and The Swans.
The album opens with Tagger, a slightly dilapidated gospel rocker which pays homage to whomever had decided to "Tag" the door of Ibeam Music (a performance and rehearsal space in Brooklyn, NY which Brian operates). Drummer Ches Smith catapults the song into high gear and Bizingas captures the raw energy that can only come from a first take. Ches Smith came up in a scene of punks and metal musicians in Sacramento, CA who were listening to and experimenting with jazz and free improvisation. Some of his early work consists of tours with Mr. Bungle and Nels Cline and most recently with Mary Halvorson and Tim Berne. There is daring interplay between Knuffke and Drye while the drums and guitar remain persistent throughout the odd meter vamps. All four musicians introduce themselves briefly and offer a preview to what lies ahead.
The angular unison melody in Money Market contrasts with a series of unwavering block chords from Jonathan Goldberger's baritone guitar, showcasing his dark, impetuous sound. An experienced recording engineer, Jonathan's palette is vast and he is responsible for the careful mixes on this album. "Mixing with Jonathan" says Drye, "afforded me the opportunity to take my time, which for self-produced jazz musicians is a luxury. Jonathan Goldberger grew up playing rock and funk on the outskirts of the everglades and the Colorado Rockies and has performed with luminaries such as avant rock guitarist, James "Blood" Ulmer, drummer Jim Black and trumpeter Ron Miles.
Iluminum is a fast swinging journey that pays homage to his bandmate and friend Kirk Knuffke. Brian and Kirk have logged quite a few hours as a duo and Mr. Drye is a member of the Kirk Knuffke Quartet with Mark Helias and Jeff Davis. Says Drye, "I connected immediately to Kirk's short, conversational pieces that require very little instruction and clearly indicate a direction, energy and mood." Kirk Knuffke hails from Colorado and has planted his roots firmly in NYC with veteran improvisors such as Kenny Wolleson, Butch Morris and most recently as a member of the Matt Wilson Quartet. You will preview what it might be like to hear them as a duo while the guitar and drums suddenly pull the rug out from under them.
The only song that was not originally intended for this album is TMT which features Mr. Drye on piano. Conceived for a trio with Jeff Davis, Oscar Noriega and Brian Drye on organ and trombone, the baritone guitar and piano officially take over for the absence of bass. "I had the temptation to play piano, my first instrument, on this recording" says Drye "which I took into serious consideration when I realized the studio owned a nine-foot Baldwin grand." The studio in reference is 58 North Six in Brooklyn, NY under the direction of fellow trombonist Josh Roseman. Brian Drye has most recently been performing on keyboards and piano with electro-pop duo Opsvik & Jennings and Curtis Hasselbring’s Curhachestra with Brandon Seabrook.
Other highlights include Pastoral (a pointillistic improvising vehicle) , Sifting (a ballad dedicated to Duke Ellington) and Farmer (a short, through-composed tone poem with no improvisation). Guilty picks up the pace with a riff stolen from a nearby passenger sitting next to Mr. Drye on the F train in Brooklyn. He claims that "the headphone volume was just loud enough to transcribe the song. I purposely altered the pitches to re-create the sound of it actually coming through the headphones."
Untitled Moog Anthem rounds out the final five minutes adding a vintage analog synth to the ensemble. Mr. Drye exploits the haunting dark tones of this instrument and its primitive ability to sequence notes. The entire track is recorded in real time over a pulsating ostinato with minimal improvisation. This final track exhibits a passionate restrain and closes the album with grace.
The debut recording from Bizingas is being released on NCM East Records, a label synonymous with new, creative music since 1997. With Bizingas, Brian Drye brings us a quartet boasting a curiosity that does not rest and a vocabulary that refuses to be diluted.
Brian Drye: Trombone, Piano, Synth, Compositions
Jonathan Goldberger: Guitar; Baritone Guitar
Kirk Knuffke: Cornet
Ches Smith: Drums, Glockenspiel
Recorded by Andrew Felluss at 58N6th Studios in Brooklyn, NY
Mixed by Jonathan Goldberger at Down Home Labs in Brooklyn, NY
Mastered by Steve Vavagiakis at Bang Zoom Mastering in Rockland, NY