Dom Minasi & Carol Mennie:
At age 60, guitarist-composer-arranger
Dom Minasi, continues to explore and expand the boundaries of guitar playing
just as he has done for the greater part of the past four decades.
is Minasis latest release on CDM, the label for which he serves as the
Artistic Director, along with singer-wife-partner, Carol Mennie.
Minasi has practiced technique for sure and his reharmonizations are inventive,
but the groups concept can be very difficult to stomach. His torrents
of notes are at times supported by a strong rhythmic foundation, and at others,
they explore an open washboard space supplied by his band-mates. This is avant-garde,
chancy music, taking risks left and right. This is not music for the ill at
Quick Response is one of Minasis more accessible recordings. It
sings and even settles into some nice swinging pockets. Mark Whitecages
schmaltzy alto sax playing leaves tone to be desired; nonetheless, Quick
Response pushes the envelope far less than some of his more cryptic live
recordings. Good news for more tonally inclined audiences, indeed.
In 2001, the trio recorded live at The Knitting Factory in New York. This set
comprised the tracks for Takin the Duke Out, an album that applies
a far out, atonal approach to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn standards.
Needless to say, Minasis playing and composition is anything but standard.
I love changing the harmony to standards. That people recognize it, brings
a whole new flavor to the tune, says Minasi. Understanding the artistic
risk he was taking, He thought it would be the end of his career,
says wife Mennie.
Growing up, Minasi spent a lot of time at Birdland. It was $5 to get in
and have a Coke, recalls Minasi. There, he heard the likes of the Jazz
Messengers, Wayne Shorter, the Quincy Jones Big Band, Horace Silver, Chico Hamilton
with Johnny Pisano, and many other jazz greats. I got an incredible education
by just sitting there.
Artistically, Minasi says, I think like a horn player. He has been
greatly influenced by John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. John and Waltz
for Eric, two of Minasis originals inspired by these reedmen, made
their way on to his 2003 release, Time Will Tell.
But stylistically, Minasis playing and compositional concepts seem to
share much in common with saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Like Coleman, Minasi
is not afraid to play out on a limb. Both artists take a tenacious approach
to their instruments, vigorously strumming and blowing notes outside the box.
Like writer Virginia Woolf, Dom Minasis stream-of-consciousness pummels
barrages of thoughts at the audience. While Minasis emphasis on deconstruction
of the music often drowns the listener in esotericism, his polytonal reharmonizations
deny a one-size-fits-all method for playing jazz.
Everything I play, whether its atonal or freeform, is coming from
a harmonic point of view, says Minasi. In so doing, his arrangements are
not always the most accessible, but he certainly keeps the curve balls coming.
When it comes to recording with his wife, Minasi separates his married life
and his musical life. Carol is not my wife anymore, says Minasi.
Its a whole nother ballgame.
Having made her debut on a recording of Thelonious Monks Round
Midnight on Minasis Time Will Tell CD, Carol Mennie made
her debut as a leader on Im Not a Sometime Thing (2004). Her vocal
presence harnesses Minasis playing and offers some transparent arrangements
to enjoy Minasis dexterity on the guitar without the sharp edges of his
more angular avant-garde playing.
At any rate, with Minasi at the helm, expect the unexpected.
Quick Response, I'm Not A Sometime Thing