Friday, March 18, 2011

Dan Peck's Heavy Metal

Posted By on 03.18.11 at 02:54 PM

Dan Peck
  • Dan Peck
Pity the poor tuba player: few instruments are so unwieldy and get so little respect. Though tubas began turning up in symphonies in the 1800s, today people usually think of them only in contexts like marching bands, polka music, and early New Orleans jazz. The tuba often appears on the first jazz discs, but for the most part that was because the string bass couldn't project much sound in the era of acoustic recordings, before amplification—tuba players were called in to provide the bass lines.

Modern jazz and improvised music have had their share of great tuba players—among them Ray Draper, Bob Stewart, Howard Johnson, Melvyn Poore, Marcus Rojas, and Per-Ake Holmlander (the Swede who was just in town with Ken Vandermark's Resonance Ensemble). To this short list we can add Dan Peck, who brings his New York trio to town for a concert at Heaven Gallery on Saturday night. Peck keeps busy in multiple musical worlds, including jazz and contemporary classical—he's yet another excellent musician involved with the International Contemporary Ensemble—but this superb trio, with bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Brian Osborne, carves out its own bizarre territory.

Last year's Acid Soil (Heat Retention) is a bold, sublime adventure in low end, using acoustic instruments to chase the sub-bass extremes of doom metal. The sidelong piece "Zombie Blood" moves at a dinosaur plod, with Osborne banging out excruciatingly slow beats and Peck breaking down his gut-rumbling puffs into growled, rough-textured tones. Blancarte—a regular cohort of mavericks like trumpeter Peter Evans and banjoist Brandon Seabrook—shadows Peck with equally harrowing plucks and thumps. Their tones lack the sustain you'd get from the amplified instruments in metal, but the frequencies they produce using only breath and body are impressive in their own right. I'm not sure if or where he does it on this recording, but Peck sometimes fits his tuba with a saxophone mouthpiece (as you can see in the photo), and both his improvised and classical playing employ plenty of extended technique. The album's other two pieces, "Reanimated Surface" and "Sewer Rat Exorcism," are more typical free improv, but here too the strange timbral cross-section of the group guarantees a unique sound. You can hear samples of all three tracks at Peck's website.

photo: Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net

Today's playlist:

Maysa, Maysa/Convite Para Ouvir Maysa (Som Livre)
Mozafar Shafii & the Rast Ensemble, Mozafar Shafii & the Rast Ensemble (Ocora)
Liam Sillery, Phenomenology (OA2)
Clogs, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland)
Chris Dahlgren & Lexicon, Mystic Maze (Jazzwerkstatt)

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