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Published: 2004/05/29
by Pat Buzby

Bright Shadows – Dose Hermanos

Gaff Music 6036
Right off the bat, this latest CD from the
cross-generational Dead keyboardists’ summit has one
thing going for it: the booklet is a terrific read.
Between Bob Bralove’s tech talk and Tom Constanten’s
friendly-professor musings, the essays are useful and
entertaining enough to justify a purchase by
Improvisation, which is Dose Hermanos’s principal
pursuit, gives an honest reflection of any player’s
musical character. The liner notes accurately reflect
the virtues which Bralove and Constanten share: both
have vast knowledge, estimable keyboard chops and an
appetite for musical adventure. Seasoned Deadheads,
though, will also be aware of their weaknesses: the
MIDI-era Dead, when Bralove served as consultant, used
timbres which may have reflected a great deal of
technological wherewithal, but which often just didn’t
sound as good as the unadorned guitars and pianos of
yesteryear. Constanten, back in the late 60s, added
some welcome avant/classical touches to Anthem of the
Sun and Aoxomoxoa, but never got comfortable with the
blues feel that was a necessary element of most of the
Dead’s material.
Both the pros and the cons mentioned above are
abundantly evident on Bright Shadows, and Bralove and
Constanten, being honest folks, don’t expend much
energy trying to hide the cons. At best, in this
lengthy program of dual improvisations, they toss
ideas off one another to form mind-bending
constructions. At worst, as on "Heart Song," they
offer New Agey doodles and lounge keyboard textures.
Often, they do both at once.
"Shadow of the Invisible Man," the one cut to exceed
10 minutes, is a good listen-before-you-buy choice.
One could not blame a listener for concluding that the
combination of Bralove playing the chord pattern from
Bill Evans’ "Peace Piece" with Constanten running
around the digital piano like a five-year old is what the
Muzak of Hell’s shopping malls might be like. If you
can accept that as the starting point of a musical
journey which leads to hair-raising dual chords a few
minutes later, though, you’ll like this disc.
For all its ups and downs, Bright Shadows is as true
to the Dead’s adventurous spirit as anything else
coming from that camp these days — rather more so than
most recent projects, arguably. It does make one
think, however, of how many other intriguing keyboard
summits could have happened if Ned Lagin were still in
the loop or Keith Godchaux and Brent Mydland were
still with us… ahh, the Dose (or perhaps Tres or
Cuatro) Hermanos combos of fantasy.

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