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Published: 2004/05/29
by Pat Buzby

Bedouin Hornbook – Rich West

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In these perilous times for creative artists,
it’s nice to know that people are still making music
like this. The worst I can say, in fact, is that
lately it seems like every CD of this nature is ending
up in my mailbox, leading to a certain amount of
L.A. based drummer-composer West leads an avant/jazz
combo through eight cuts, which, averaging over eight
minutes apiece, have plenty of breathing room. His
writing suggests Stravinsky, the AACM, and the artier
moments of early Frank Zappa, as well as the previous
bands (such as Henry Cow and the Muffins) who
attempted to synthesize those elements. Reedman Chris
Heenan, trumpeter Bruce Friedman and guitarist Jeremy
Drake get spiky timbres and execute West’s charts with
accuracy, and Scott Ray’s tuba lends itself well to
the circus-like atmosphere of several pieces — although,
at times, I miss the cutting groove which fingers
pulling bass strings tend to provide more easily.
The only hitch is that, although I enjoy oddness as
much as (or more than) the next guy, this music eludes
me at times. The opening cut "Bugge," for instance,
starts with what seems like an introduction that
portends a climactic musical payoff, but the payoff
never quite materializes as the piece finishes out its
11:20. "Tribology" contrasts a stomping hook with an
arresting multi-chordal line, and "Twang" sets up an
ominous drama with didjeridoo-ish sounds and a
harrowing theme, but both pieces have other episodes
tacked onto the end which don’t seem to add much.
And, after a few more cuts with nary a pretty moment,
I’m as weary of the features of this type of music as
those of Whitney Houston.
The last two cuts suggest a way out of the doldrums.
"Curly," which resembles an Art Ensemble take on Sly
Stone’s "I Want to Take You Higher," provides the
straightforward relief the disc needs. The concluding
"Furcifer" (speaking of the features of this type of
music, what’s with these titles?), meanwhile, has a
short, provocative theme that reminds me of those
welcome, rare times when Anthony Braxton has offered
up something catchy.
In the end, West and band don’t surpass their
influences, but they keep the tradition of odd music
going in a lively way. It’d be nice if they could
continue to make music like this.

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