Time Will Tell
CDM Records CDM 1003

Appropriately not content to stop developing his music, guitarist Dom Minasi has made some line-up and conceptional changes in this, the third CD of his so-called comeback.

A jazz lifer who has written guitar technique books, played clubs, studio and theatre gigs, Minasi’s bad experience with a major label kept him away from recording until the late 1990s, when he finally released two enthusiastically received trio discs. TIME WILL TELL takes the concept a bit further with innovations that both add and subtract from the ideal he had set up with his bass and drums trio.

On the plus side, improvising cellist Tomas Ulrich — who turns up with increasing frequency on exceptional improv CDs, including those featuring percussionist Kevin Norton and bassist Joëlle Léandre — is added to Minasi’s basic trio; plus the guitarist has included more of his own tunes. Minuses are that John Bollinger, the trio’s new drummer, while a fine accompanist, isn’t the dynamic technician Jackson Krall was, therefore weakening the partnership. More seriously the fretman’s mushy streak is more on display, both on the overlong title tune and a version of “Round Midnight” that features a sentimental vocal by his wife, Carol Mennie.

When they aren’t put in the position of reacting like a mawkish string section, Ulrich and bassist Ken Filiano add a lot more to the proceedings. On “DMP”, for instance, the double-timed, unison cello, bass and guitar lines intermingle to create a sort of hip hoedown. Pizzicato, Ulrich works his way up to fiddle tone, extending his notes with tremolos and breaking the note off into partials. After comping for the others Minasi speedily glides up and down the strings. Finally after a curt cowbell respite from Bollinger, the cellist triple stops and triple times the theme, which ends with the three strings again in unison.

Honoring Dizzy Gillespie, “Be Op Be Op Be Ah” is a speedy beboppy tune featuring high-pitched, arpeggio-rich, slurred fingering from Minasi. Eventually his repetitive ringing licks join squealing staccato lines from the cellist and the bassist plucking out well-paced short variations on the theme. Ulrich’s talents are also on show with “Waltz For Eric”, where his double stopping to advanced polytonality almost recreates reedist Dolphy’s distinctive tone.

For his part, the guitarist shows how John Coltrane’s legacy can be translated to the guitar with his molasses-slow “John”, a string-driven modification of “Giant Steps”. Using only a tiny bit of reverb, Minasi’s carefully resonated grace notes recall the fact that Wes Montgomery was in Trane’s band for a short time. Elsewhere, reflecting its title, “My Soul Cries Out” melds the cello’s natural mournfulness with arching guitar expansion straight out of the whole note Johnny Smith/Tal Farlow school. Further along, Minasi’s slurred and sliding finger work expresses his morose output in arpeggios, while Ulrich double stops the theme with his lowest strings.

Minasi is adamant that all of his CDs and live performances are group efforts. “It’s not about ego, it’s about the group,” he says. He can be praised for having altered the trio formula that first exposed its artistry. But it would seem that a bit more fine-tuning is needed with this new configuration.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Witch Hunt 2. Time Will Tell 3. DMP 4. My Soul Cries Out 5. Be Op Be Op Be Ah 6. John 7. Waltz for Eric 8. Round Midnight*

Personnel: Dom Minasi (guitar); Tomas Ulrich (cello); Ken Filiano (bass) John Bollinger (drums); Carol Mennie (vocal)*