Personnel:Nick Fryer, Guitar
Doug Stone, Tenor & Soprano
Jeff Greene, Bass
Jon Deitemeyer, Drums & Melodica
Tracks:Confined Within, Stay Out of Harm’s Way, Mi Corozon Liora a Gritos, The Carnies, Caricature, Doll’s Dance, Mental Mutilation, It’s All In Your Head, Cellophane, Final Finding, Holon, Siphnos.
Nick Fryer | Doug Stone Quartet
To quote Doug Stone from his interview: “I did not think I had to make this a traditional jazz album. I play a lot of music that’s way more far out than these particular tunes, so to a certain extent, I feel that some of these tunes are pretty inside and jazz influenced. At the same time, it’s going to be very different from music that’s in your traditional jazz category.” As you listen to these selections, you will agree with Doug’s statement. All the tunes are original and were written by either Doug Stone or Nick Fryer.
The first tune “Confined Within,” a Doug Stone vehicle, begins with a lazy vamp intro, followed by a through-composed (through-composed is a classical term used to describe the deliberate and continued use of new melody, even though repetition of that melody would have been possible or normal) long flowing, arching melodic statement. It’s a fascinating melody line, played with an almost middle east textured flavor in Doug’s sax statement. His solo, laid over the very simple harmonic structure, is very textural, yet filled with interesting slices of melodic motifs. Nick’s guitar solo is next, simple in mood and variation to offset Doug’s moodier solo. A hard-driving vamp appears after the last solo, followed by a drum solo, then a variation of the vamp that set up the original melody, followed by a recap of the original theme to the ending.
Number 2, “Stay Out of Harm’s Way,” is Nick Fryer’s. It’s a 24 measure tune, AAB, stated first in unison by tenor sax and guitar, then a second time by tenor alone, with guitar accompaniment, after which soloing begins. The solos are based on an uncomplicated harmonic structure which allows Doug and Nick to explore melodic and textural ideas with more freedom, which they do with great relish.
The third tune, “Mi CorozÛn Liora a Gritos,” is again by Nick Fryer, and begins with a short introduction followed by a lyrical melody line played on tenor. The first 16 measures of the melody rises and falls in a lovely arch, and eventually ends with a truncated recap of the first 8 to close out the form. Again, very through-composed in feeling. Bassist Jeff Green solos for the first time on this tune, after which Doug restates the original melody. But instead of ending, the group shifts gears into a vamp which sets up Doug’s solo. The tune ends with a slight variation of the melody after the solo. Another observation of this kind of music: nothing ever stays static.
“The Carnies,” the fourth tune on this 12 tune CD, is a fascinating piece of music. I particularly like this tune. You are pulled completely into it. I was so curious as to what happened next, that I eagerly followed the tune onto any path it chose to travel. The tune has a quite chromatic vertical line not usually associated with the kind of diatonic configuration found in standard melodic song. Doug’s energetic solo is mood and feeling. He states no particular melodic idea, but presents the listener with a frame of mind, using the idiosyncrasies of the tenor sax to supply interesting textural sounds over what seems to be mostly a single chord vamp, rhythmically pushed along with a wonderful lazy funk, fusion, back-beat. You can’t help but like this tune.
Tune number 5, “Caricature,” written by Doug Stone, is a very haunting and beautiful melody expressed by Doug on soprano, without tempo, with Nick’s thoughtful accompaniment.
Number 6,“ Doll’s Dance,” again by Doug Stone, begins with a vamp that builds as the instruments are added, until the melody line enters. The rhythmic pattern on this piece is quite interesting. I’m not sure what to call it: a fusion-shuffle, straight 8, jazz swing, take your pick. But whatever rhythm it is, it is a great rhythmic feel to blow on, and Doug and Nick make the most of it. Solos are again over a steady pedal point vamp, alternating with the straight-8 fusion feel, and occasionally a swing feel, again a nice contrast.
Tune number 7, “Mental Mutilation,” by Doug Stone, is completely rubato, without steady tempo. Fryer, on guitar, accompanies Doug’s improvised patterns part of the way, and at other times they both go their own ways.
Number 8 is called “It’s All In Your Head.” Doug wrote this one in about as straight ahead a jazz feel as you’ll find on this CD. Nick and Doug are in unison for the melody, Nick takes the first solo. However, just as you think it IS that straight ahead, you notice that there’s an extra measure thrown in at the end of each phrase. I should have learned. Nothing this group does is as it seems. You really must pay attention.
Doug’s next tune, number 9, is titled “Cellophane.” It begins with a long but light rhythmic vamp using bass and drums before Doug states the melody. Nick joins Doug in unison to finish the form, after which Jeff Greene takes a most excellent solo, followed by Doug, after which the piece winds down to the original vamp that began the tune. The melody is then re-stated, but dissolves into a long vamp with a simple riff over the top that builds to the ending.
The 10th tune, “Final Finding,” is another haunting ballad melody, with Jon Deitemeyer playing simple time on the brushes. It’s a laid back, peaceful and thoughtful tune, with another through composed melodic line stretching almost two minutes. This tune feels calming and meditative. You drift along with the melody and solo section, reflecting on its content. Doug returns to the melody with a high, plaintive cry and slowly wanders to an evocative cadenza and the conclusion of the piece.
Nick Fryer wrote tune number 11, named “Holon.” Nick starts the intro, adds a simple fusion-rhythm feel, after which a very jagged melodic line is laid over the top of the rhythm. The pedal point vamp with its simple harmonic structure allows Doug and Nick maximum freedom to explore creatively, although they constantly consider each other’s improvisations in order to play off from and balance the melodic content between them. The build-up of the two soloists reaches a high point, and then seems to slowly die away. The piece seems to want to end, but suddenly falls into a riff that continues over the top of a exciting and tasty drum solo. Nick and Doug break out of Jon Deitermeyer’s drum solo with a re-statement of the melody. Will we now end? No! Every time you think you’re finished, they shift to another new idea. But all good things must eventually end, and a totally climactic section finally concludes the tune. Many improvisers like the limitations imposed by a harmonically structured melody. This group thrives on the infinity of possibilities allowed with harmonic freedom. Jon
Deitemeyer’s playing on this CD is exceptional. His rhythmic competence is exciting and makes you want to jump in and start playing with him.
The last piece, number 12, by Nick Fryer, is called “Siphnos.” It’s an energetic medium swing piece, a straight ahead jazz piece that successfully carries the listener to the conclusion of this 65 minute, 45 second CD. There’s no good reason why this should be the last tune. But then, there’s no good reason for it not to be the last tune. Doug and Nick felt it appropriate and that’s good enough for me.
In conclusion, most of these melodies are not “vocally or singer” constructed, as you would find in a Gershwin or Porter melody. These are “instrument” melodies, and don’t follow the normal rules or style of song composers. Which leads one to a final observation. This CD forces you to not just listen, but to think, and it’s not always that easy. This music does not reflect only an emotional experience. The listener will find it easier to understand and listen to this music if they already know something about the qualities that make up a tune, because on this CD, you can be certain that just when you think it’s an undemanding and straightforward form or melody, that extra measure will suddenly appear, or a surprise melodic twist reaches out and grabs you as it goes by, just as you were relaxing. There is always something different in this mix, and I think we’re all the better for it.