Jazz CD Reviews

Dom Minasi and Blaise Siwula – Live at the Matt Bevel Institute – Re:konstrukt

Guitarist Dom Minasi and Blaise Siwula: 21st century artists who bring melodic poise to accessibly free improvisation.

Published on June 21, 2010

Dom Minasi and Blaise Siwula – Live at the Matt Bevel Institute – Re:konstrukt

Dom Minasi and Blaise Siwula – Live at the Matt Bevel Institute – Re:konstrukt re:029, 66:04 ****:

(Dom Minasi – guitar; Blaise Siwula – alto saxophone)

There is an intuitive quality to the paired music of New York City guitarist Dom Minasi and alto saxophonist Blaise Siwula. The two friends first worked together in 1996 and since then have collaborated in different configurations, resulting in music that often crosses the line between avant-garde or free jazz and melodically accessible material.

There was alchemy when the duo played at the Matt Bevel Institute in Tucson, Arizona. As any musician can attest, one never knows what will transpire on stage, but luckily two superb sets were recorded and this digital download-only release, Live at the Matt Bevel Institute, showcases the best of those performances.

The 66-minute document reveals Minasi and Siwula’s scope and talents. Both artists have extensive credits in a variety of styles and approaches and bring their influences and mannerisms to this all-original program that features four Siwula compositions and three by Minasi.

The openers, Siwula’s “Tendencies in Tandem” and Minasi’s “The Vampire’s Revenge,” illustrate the players’ sensitivity and circular intersection. Siwula develops melodic passages that combine a romantic tinge with aggressive depth. On the first piece, Minasi underscores Siwula’s sax with riffing, tremolo guitar. As Siwula soars, Minasi grounds the looser parts with his rhythmic trait and percussive chords. The darkly suggestive “The Vampire’s Revenge” also demonstrates the twosome’s ability to offer risky moments that stretch limitations alongside standard jazz harmonies. Minasi strums and plucks with abandon – he occasionally displays a hint of avowed hero Jim Hall – while Siwula reaches ever higher with Coltrane-esque verve.

The release’s crux is Minasi’s “Strange,” a 14-minute mini-epic that starts with a low-tempo tone not quite a ballad, but shifts into an assertive fashion. About five minutes in Minasi takes a solo bow that incorporates melodic overtones. However, he and Siwula just as quickly move to a spacious, unrestricted articulation akin to a story constructed on blank paper, left unwritten until the time the page is opened. At the end, the duo orbits back to replicate the elegance that begins “Strange.”

The other cuts also make evident Siwula’s concentrated touch. While Siwula is not well known by the general jazz audience, during this recording he exhibits exceptional dexterity that marks him as an artist who merits wider recognition. He can tease and banter with the melodies, churn tumultuously over Minasi’s stabilizing guitar lines and always maintains an individual vision. Throughout, Minasi is a faultless foil as he provides balance and sympathetic rapport.

This is the sort of music recommended for those who seek out unconventional music outside the norm. While most would file Live at the Matt Bevel Institute within the avant-garde vernacular, Minasi’s self-description undoubtedly fits best: he calls it 21st century music.

Live at the Matt Bevel Institute is only available in high-quality MP3 format. Those not sold on the MP3 form might not value these 320 kbps downloads but they are nearly CD equivalent tracks. Also, the live production is three-dimensional and captures Siwula’s robust tone although Minasi’s guitar rides somewhat softer and is now and then too low in the mix, though that is probably deliberate.

1. Tendencies in Tandem
2. The Vampire’s Revenge
3. Circle Down
4. Strange
5. King Tut
6. The Day After Next
7. What Monk

— Doug Simpson

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