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Published: 2005/09/08
by Pat Buzby

Chamber Works – Terry Bozzio + Metropole Orkest

Favored Nations 2530-2

Terry Bozzio earned his drumming stripes years ago with Zappa and Jeff Beck and had 15 minutes of ;'80s pop fame with Missing Persons. One might think that Bozzio, in his 50s, would be in the victory lap phase of his career by now. Instead, he’s one of the few prog/fusion veterans to be doing music now which is more experimental than what he was playing back in the day. Since the late '80s, Bozzio has been hitting the stage alone with drumkits large enough to put him in the running for the Guinness book, and doing everything he can to show audiences that these contraptions can produce music, not just primal pounding fests.

On Chamber Works, Bozzio matches one of those massive kits with the forces of a rock-flavored chamber ensemble. Chamber Works is something of a companion piece to last year’s The Universe Will Provide, in which fellow Zappa veteran Mike Keneally joined forces with the same group for the same label. Like Keneally, Bozzio makes no bones about his continuing reverence for Zappa. But while Keneally’s disc recalled Zappa’s love of absurd juxtapositions and heavy guitars, Bozzio’s writing is in more of what his onetime employer might have called a “strictly genteel” vein. Note-heavy runs and jagged, exclamatory melodies abound, but the moods Bozzio evokes are deep and sometimes outright lush.

Bozzio had some help (Martin Fondse gets orchestration credit), but it’s clear in the opening “Five Movements For Drum Set And Orchestra” that the musical inspiration flows from Bozzio’s drum solo methods. The lower regions of the ensemble mimic the ostinato patterns from Bozzio’s bass drums and lower toms, while his higher-pitched drums and cymbals trade off melody duties with Metropole’s woodwinds, strings and brass. “Opus One: Self-Portrait With Scar” makes the drums less prominent, but taps a similar musical vein, with a memorable middle section in which another set of ostinato patterns suggests a more elaborate variation on minimalism.

Admittedly, it’s best for listeners to develop a working knowledge of Zappa, not to mention Var and Stravinsky, before spending time getting to know Bozzio’s Chamber Works. Give him credit, though, for producing a CD which not only shows new possibilities in musical drumming but has things to offer non-drummers as well; Chamber Works shows that Bozzio’s ability to craft melodies and chord sequences is almost in a league with his independence and stick control.

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