Dom Minasi Trio Takin' the Duke Out (CDM Records, 2001)
Did the Duke ever need to go this far out? Or rather, did Dom Minasi need to take him this far? New York City guitarist and composer Dom Minasi has been stretching the boundaries of avant and free jazz for decades. He carefully selected the personnel and the live setting at The Knitting Factory in New York City for his interpretations of six Ellington standards.
Minasi's dissections of these classics bare scant resemblance to the familiar heads and chord structures. Both he and bassist Ken Filiano use a variety of attacks, from normal picking to percussive smacks to strident bowing on the bass, but their playing too often diverges into pointless flurries and screeches that add nothing to the music except a shrill reminder that these guys are "out." The lone bright spot of comprehensible deconstruction is "Take the A Train," as the chords disintegrate into divergent plucked Lines.
Minasi's round hollowbody jazz guitar tone feels better suited to airy chording or a ballad melody rather than blazing runs of notes, as they tend to smear together. The lack of any treble bite in the guitar and the sparse trio format leave the live mix sounding boomy and indistinct, with only drummer Jackson Krall's cymbal work in the midrange and higher frequencies.
The title perfectly describes Minasi's goal to deconstruct these standards, and the turgid liner notes by jazz critic Bill Milkowski belabor the expected snobbish reactions of "straight-laced Ellington fans and scholars" and Milkowski's certainty that "Takin' the Duke Out" will "piss people off." The problem with Minasi's interpretations isn't that they stray from traditional notions of these standards, it is that Takin' the Duke Out razes them so utterly into an avant void that nothing remains except tedious noodling.
Reviewed by Scott Andrews [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Don't Get Around Much Anymore
I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good
Take the A Train
It Don't Mean a thing If It Ain't Got That Swing
Dom Minasi: Guitar
Ken Filiano: Bass
Jackson Krall: Drums
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