Time Will Tell, the most recent CD from New York guitarist Dom Minasi and his group DDT+2, is a poignant display of musical identity and collective interplay amongst the five players that make up the group. DDT being Minasi, Tomas Ulrich on Cello, and Ken Filiano on Bass, with the +2 being Minasi’s wife Carol Mennie and Drummer John Bollinger.
For those unfamiliar with Minasi, he is a guitarist situated in the genre referred to as the avant-garde or free music. Such titles however, do not sit well with Minasi as he prefers to be thought of as a 21st Century Guitarist going beyond the tradition but still retaining the foundations of jazz improv and personal expression.
Take for example the opening track, Wayne Shorter’s tune “Witch Hunt”. It starts off with a military march time figure provided by Minasi’s muted string “chuka’s” as Ulrich’s frenzied Cello sound recalls the melody with some very interesting squeals and squeaks. And just when you are wondering where they will be taking the tune, the band jumps into a nice swing feel with Minasi contributing a gorgeous guitar tone throughout the tune and subsequently throughout the whole album. There’s some really nice playing by Minasi (who rips through the tunes solo section with speed and technical acumen), Ulrich, Filiano, and Bollinger throughout the solo sections and while it may be a little challenging for the uninitiated to listen to, there is some serious playing going on here.
The dramatic rendering of “Witch Hunt” is in direct contrast to the second tune, a beautiful bossa written by Manasi and the title track of the CD. This is as straight as I have ever heard Minasi play and it reminds me that Minasi is a consummate musician who can play wonderfully in as well as out. Ulrich’s reading of the melody is haunting and full of emotion and is reason enough for Minasi to have incorporated an instrument that doesn’t find itself too much in the world of improvised Jazz, although that may change.
The next five tunes, all written by Minasi, incorporate all of the elements above with some surprising twists and turns. “DMP” for example is loosely based on the Miles Davis classic “All Blues”, while the tune “John” is clearly a take on Coltrane’s classic “Giant Steps” which you can subtly hear throughout the tune. In the same vein, “Be Op Be Op Be Ah” is loosely based on Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia” as well as the rhythmic motif of “Salt Peanuts”.
“My Soul Cries Out” begins as a ballad with beautiful interplay between Minasi’s warm arpegiated chords and Ulrich’s expressive phrasing. There’s some heartfelt playing on this tune by Minasi as he recounts in the liner notes a “sad” episode in his life between himself and Blue Note Records: “I was in a period of anguish from which I’ve only recently emerged” (ed. Check out Minasi’s web site for more info).
“Waltz For Eric” is the second to last tune on the album and is a harried and syncopated romp that would fit in nicely as the musical score to any Tim Burton film. Some nice “screams” from Ulrich’s bow and neck underneath Minasi’s warm chord shots. Bassist Filiano gets some nice solo time followed by Minasi’s stream of consciousness fretboard manipulations with some dissonant ascending double stops thrown in. All the while, drummer Bollinger keeps the band steady and firmly planted in the time.
The last tune, Thelonius Monk’s lingering melody “Round Midnight”, is beautifully interpreted by Minasi’s wife, Carol Mennie with Minasi switching to nylon string and playing a very sensitive solo against the moody backdrop that the rest of the group provides.
Time Will Tell is an excellent choice for those who are seeking an alternative to the mainstream, or who are curious about what else is out there in the world of Jazz Guitar, and Dom Minasi is definitely the guy to look out for.