I am a critic with a bias. Most people taking a shot at reviewing music won't tell you that. I also admit anyone releasing a record with the title, Peace & Stability Among Bears gets my immediate attention. The Daniel Bennett Group is back better than ever with their follow up to the critically acclaimed release mentioned above with Clockhead Goes To Camp. Oh, my bias? I like to think outside the box so I tend to champion the independent artist and Daniel Bennett makes it easy.
Bennett is a fixture on the New York scene and while his music has been called folk jazz with shades of Phillip Glass and minimalistic there is an overriding feeling of whimsical organic joy with this release. Comparisons to other players is virtually pointless and inherently unfair as I can think of no one with a similar sound or approach as Bennett. There is a disjointed approach of minimalism that works so well thanks to passion and perseverance. Less is indeed more. If forced to label Bennett then perhaps highly accessible free jazz that is slightly left of center but never bordering on the self indulgent tip that similar players may insist on.
"The Old Muskrat Welcomes Us" complete with hand claps is a effervescent ditty where Bennett explores the range of his alto and one can't help but smile. "Clockhead Goes To Camp" opens with solo clarinet from Bennett as he firmly establishes his virtuoso ability with this slightly syncopated odd metered tune made even better with the the Pat Metheny like angular solo from guitarist Mark Cocheo and the rhythm section rounded off with bassist Pete Brendler and drummer Tyson Stublek. "Paint The Fence" showcases Bennett's prowess on flute while the group dynamic is dialed back the lyrical sense of purpose and the open ended approach is refreshing. A sonic shower for the mind as Bennett attacks his flute and takes on both the visceral and cerebral approach with flair and panache.
Bennett's deft use of his harmonic base as needed combined with a virtuoso woodwind performance allows The Daniel Bennett Group to chart some new ground. Free jazz or experimental music on virtually any level is simply a label that critics came up with because most had no idea what the musical intent was from artists like Phillip Glass or Albert Alyer. Daniel Bennett is the musical square peg attempted to fit the round hole but by doing it his way.
4 Stars and rising. From the fantastic cover art to the outrageous song titles to the actual release - this is a release to experience. While taste is certainly a subjective issue, this is as close to perfection as you can get.
Tracks: The Old Muskrat Welcomes Us; An Elephant Buys A New Car; Nine Piglets; Dr. Duck's Beautiful New Kitchen; Clockhead Goes To Camp; Whatever It Might Be (featuring poet Rimas Uzgiris); Last Summer At Camp Creepy; Paint The Fence; Sandpaper Is Necessary; John Lizard and Mr. Pug; Cabin 12 Escapes Into The Night; Patience; Ten Piglets.
Personnel: Daniel Bennett: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet; Mark Cocheo: guitar; Peter Brendler: bass; Tyson Stublek: drums.
Look for a July release and check out Daniel's web site for more information.