August 6, 2001
Until the Outrage is Expiated
Sachimay Limited Edition No #
DAN DECHELLIS CHAMBER ENSEMBLE
With More than a Passing Interest
Sachimay Limited Edition No #
DAN DECHELLIS/PHILIP TOMASIC
As if to Remind Us
Sachimay Limited Edition No #
Proliferation of less expensive CD duplicating equipment has produced an upside and a downside. The upside is that deserving musicians such as Dan DeChellis now have the opportunity to quickly put out themselves limited edition discs of their own work on their own label. The downside is that the chances of you being able to find these discs in the average "jazz" section of the usual record store, stuffed with reissued "classic" product and heavily advertised groove-oriented or retro sessions is pretty limited.
That's a double downside. For the work of this 30-year-old, Queens, N. Y. -based pianist/composer is easily the equal of, if not superior to, many of the more highly touted major label performers.
Although the duo and the chamber ensemble discs are a little brief by CD-standards — 33 minutes and 46 minutes respectively — the three discs taken together can be thought of as preserved pages from an artist's sketchbook. As well, just like sketches from painters like Picasso, the artistry exhibited is as impressive as others demonstrate in completed paintings or professionally created CDs.
To deal with each session in turn, the trio disc — about 58 minutes of spontaneous creation recorded at New York's Roulette club in 1999 — is the most exciting. It also appears to be the most accomplished. But maybe that's because DeChellis is working with his regular trio of inventive percussionist Ravish Momin and TEST member Mat Heyner on bass.
Throughout, the three usually start off slowly, lock into a pulsating groove them decelerate. Classic tension and release, the disc maintains its individuality because the pianist has more of a romantic cast to his playing than most POMO stylists. At least we would hope it's tension and release, rather than expatiating outrage as the title suggests, since there's no hint as to which outrage is being described.
DeChellis' soloing encompasses suggestions of Cecil Taylor and McCoy Tyner. But which young, contemporary keyboardist doesn't? Still, on tunes like "16:14", for instance, his right handed trills and heavy-handed consistently ascending notes instead bring bop and freebop masters like Bud Powell and Herbie Nichols to mind. Later he dives into the murky depths of the bass clef for an extended period.
During the course of the same track, the three musicians can move from AMM-like subliminal tones to car racing speeds of pure improv to dramatic menace, which owes as much to Momish's rumbling percussion as the other two's sounds. Not only does the drummer showcase hard-hitting, straightahead effects on many of the tunes, but he also creates South Asian tabla sounds on "5:18" that are answered by sitar-like buzzes from the bass and single, well-placed piano notes.
More so than in TEST, Heyner gets to expose his versatility, both arco and pizzicato. Contemporary enough to play postrock, he can still sound like an updated, strong-fingered Paul Chambers during his hushed solo on "12:58".
In contrast to the trio disc, which frequently gallops like a horse race in a blur of notes, the duo session between DeChellis and guitarist Philip Tomasic inches forward at a glacial pace, with the two improvising as if they were interconnected parts of a single instrumentalist. Not that that's surprising. The two have frequently played together over the years in Boston and New York.
Practitioner of the glistening held note and the fade to black pregnant pause, Tomasic introduces an Americana cast to his playing unlike more mechanized European guitar torturers. In fact, there are times when his repeated, twangy bass notes recall tuff rock guitarist Dwayne Eddy.
DeChellis often responds in kind, with an assembly line of note clusters at one junction, or a dagger's jab into heart of the improvisation at another. Favoring dark, left-handed keyboard thrusts to keep momentum, sometimes he and the guitarist will play alternately single or duple note passages. While many of the opposing tones may sound unconnected, they reveal a close-knit companionship when they do meet.
Most formal of the three discs, and a definite reification of the pianist's goal of blurring the lines between contemporary classical and improvised music, the ensemble session features a quintet with Anita DeChellis' voice as its the most identifiable part.
A classically trained soprano, who eschews words for intonation and pitches, she whispers and hums rather than sings on these tracks. Frequently her tones are commented upon or doubled by James Coleman's theremin spacey episodes or Katt Hernandez's long-lined violin forays, neither of which pays much mind to concert pitch.
With percussionist Gary Fieldman introducing the sounds of bells ringing, metal sheets being shaken and slide whistle toots into the proceedings, DeChellis himself sometimes seems to be the most conventional stylist. Certainly he stays pretty much out of the way, often only contributing the odd single note to most tunes. When he does solo, it's with a brittle tone that recalls Morton Feldman's writings, rather than his jazz improv work.
There are some jazz echoes, though. On "15:30", for instance, each member of the ensemble reaches a transcendent plateau of constant movement that brings to mind some of the busier episodes of mid-1960s Energy Jazz.
You could look on these CD-Rs as the three faces of Dan, with each highlighting a different aspect of his talent. Considering they're not numbered, probably the best way to get your hands on them is through DeChellis himself at www.DanDeChellis.com.
Maybe sometime in the future, though, other, larger companies may become a bit more adventurous and release at least the trio disc in more than a limited edition. What would be even better, of course, is for some label with a state-of-the art studio and nation-wide distribution to invite the pianist to record his own music without compromise.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Trio: 1. 10:44 2. 13:13 3. 16:14 4. 05:18 5. 12:58
Track Listing: Chamber: 1. 09:18 2. 15:30 3. 12:04 4. 09:27
Track Listing: Duo: 1. 07:27 2. 08:25 3. 09:53 4. 07:26
Personnel: Trio: Dan DeChellis (piano); Matt Heyner (bass); Ravish Momin (percussion)
Personnel: Chamber: Katt Hernandez (violin); Dan DeChellis (piano); Gary Fieldman (percussion); James Coleman (theremin); Anita DeChellis (voice)
Personnel: Duo: Dan DeChellis (piano); Philip Tomasic (guitar)