Nick Millevoi/Jamie Saft /Ches Smith

February 3, 2017

Shhpuma SHH024CD

By Ken Waxman

Perhaps Nick Millevoi is a musician born out of time. Possessed of an opaque style that revels in psychedelic rock and blues riffs, the New York guitarist could have made his mark in the’60s with Booker T & the MGs or The Electric Flag, perhaps doing double duty penning Ennio Morricone-like Western scores. Like the enriched version of a familiar product, Millevoi amplifies these skills on Desertion, shoring up his playing and composing by echoing more genres, with his tunes interpreted by a state-of-the-art band. Bassist Johnny DeBlase is a long-time member of Millevoi’s trio; drummer Ches Smith is best known for his work with Tim Berne; while mercurial keyboardist Jamie Saft also recorded the session.

Like the first half of a movie double bill, tracks such as “Desertion and the Arsonist’s Match” and “Just For a Moment, I Stood There in Silence” with chiming guitar patterns, durable drum beats and tremolo fluctuations from Saft’s Hammond organ, are very much in this rock-blues revival style, with alternate tunings adding an inventive near-county-music significance. But the equivalent of the feature presentation begins with “Where They Do Their Capers” and continues to the CD’s end. Suggesting a Cinemascope-like panning shot of a desolate landscape, as the lone guitar-slinging cowpoke comes into view, that track brings out further Western movie-like shoot-out-like blares with whammy bar gun-shot-like pops, plus ricocheting echoes from the others. The particular performance that could situate Mike Bloomfield and the MGs in the O.K. Corral occurs on the climatic final track, “The Fire That Partially Damaged City Hall”. Millevoi creates enough stomping, individual six-string patterns that he could in turn take on the identity of each of The Magnificent Seven, while Smith’s blacksmith anvil-like pounding and Saft’s saloon piano fills build up the theme to a crescendo of thundering menace.

The problem with Technicolor-resembling sessions such as this is that widescreen expanses, bouncing sonic colors and constant quick-draw gunplay can’t mask the fact that stronger writing and more orientation towards dramatic statements rather than scenery-chewing would have pushed Desertion closer to a Gary Cooper classic than a Saturday matinee oater.

Tracks: Desertion and the Arsonist’s Match; Just For a Moment, I Stood There in Silence; Where They Do Their Capers; Disneyland in Hamtramck; The Big Moment Is Always Out There Waiting; The Fire That Partially Damaged City Hall

Personnel: Dan Blacksberg: trombone; June Bender: violin Nick Millevoi: electric and acoustic guitars; Jamie Saft: Hammond organ and piano; Johnny DeBlase: bass and electric bass; Ches Smith: drums

–For The New York City Jazz Record February 2017