Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quite DAPPer

Andy Milne hates it when people compare his music to that of his mentor, the M-Base founder and possibly the most important figure in 80s jazz: Steve Coleman. In interviews, Milne tries to dodge the subject of Steve Coleman's leadership, and instead attempts to steer the conversation away from his time in Coleman's band and towards his solo work. It's kind of stupid, in all honesty, because when you listen to Milne's band, Dapp Theory, you can hear that it is absolutely permeated with Coleman's influence; the odd-meter funk, the hip-hop influence, the spoken word vocals- it's all pure Coleman. But it also isn't. Milne has taken Coleman's music and done something a little bit different with it. Yeah, it's a pretty subtle difference. But it's enough that makes Dapp Theory one of the most interesting bands around right now.

"Layers of Chance" is Dapp Theory's second record, and its first in five years. There are numerous personnel changes from 2003's "Y'all Just Don't Know," but the most notable is the contribution of young alto and soprano saxophonist Loren Stillman, who is new here. Stillman, once a child prodigy, is interesting for his biggest influences; in terms of his tone and ideas, his major idols seem to be Lee Konitz and Steve Coleman (with more Konitz than Coleman, oddly enough), not exactly an easy combination to reconcile. He sounds great here, and has chances to solo on almost every track; his work on "Three Duets" is particularly cool, in spite of the fact that there are apparently no actual duets. Stillman keeps the record unpredictable, playing licks that would sound out of place on a Steve Coleman or Greg Osby record, but that somehow seem to fit fine here.

The title track of "Layers of Chance" also adds some new voices (literally) with contributions from Latanya Hall and Becca Stevens. Stevens seems poised to be the new Cassandra Wilson, with an interesting and not particularly "JAZZ" album, "Tea Bye Sea," and a (the) starring role in Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra project. Milne has never been averse to using singers in his work, and has collaborated with folk musician Bruce Cockburn before. The most interesting contribution from a voice, however, is not melodic; John Moone, credited with "percussive poetry," does just that. As his credit would suggest, Moone acts as a percussionist, creating an added layer of rhythm to the proceedings with his poems.

The album, like anything good influenced by Steve Coleman, is incredibly funky. Tracks like "Bodybag for Martin" and "Monk Walks" would be danceable if they weren't, you know, in odd times that make them impossible to dance to. Milne, like Coleman, isn't interested in soothing purists, and so "Layers of Chance" is all over the place, and isn't "straight ahead" in any sense of the term. That said, I would recommend it to adventurous listeners.

No comments: