For A Dog

(Brokken Records)

The first thing that came to my mind while listening to For A Dog? Well, I have to admit it was something like "There's a lot of good music around, that I know nothing about". And yes, I'm perfectly aware that it's not a very profound, nor original, thought. However, it perfectly describes my impression: that I was listening to something quite pleasant and well-done, not terribly innovative or revolutionary, but that was able to transcend - mainly thanks to natural-sounding, inventive, performing skills - the limits of a language.

I would never had known about the existence of this album, hadn't I found it in my mailbox. The sense of assuredness coming from these "grooves" tells of a long journey, as it was immediately proved by the press release coming with the CD, and by my Web search; even more important was the fact that the name of guitarist Corrie van Binsbergen - what I'd call the "prima inter pares" of the quartet called Cram - immediately stroke a bell for a friend of mine of highly selective musical taste I was talking to; the fact that he appeared not to have a bad opinion of the guitarist's past albums he was familiar with told me I was on the right track.

The music of For A Dog could easily be filed under "jazz-rock" or "fusion". I'm quite aware that this kind of description - though truthful, even when taking into consideration the "internal variability" of those "genres" - would have even me running, in the year 2008. But here, with just a couple of exceptions - an "Oriental"-sounding melody, a few soprano sax/guitar unisons that today can only sound like clichés -, the whole sounds fresh. A big factor being van Binsbergen's skillful performing arsenal, which sometimes reminded me of both Jeff Beck and Frank Zappa.

Well recorded (by Chris Weeda), sporting a "natural" sound, the album presents a quartet of musicians who sound quite comfortable with each other: Rutger van Otterloo on saxophones, Arend Niks on drums (which are often played using brushes), and Mick Paauwe on Babybass; on a few tracks we also have Hein Offermans on double bass and Carlo de Wijs at the Hammond organ (if the real deal, the vintage one, or a modern hardware version of it, I couldn't tell: the rotating Leslie sounded real enough to me, but the "percussion" effect sounded a bit too regular, when compared to the one I remember; unfortunately, my CD player had to go to the repairer's during the listening sessions of For A Dog, and its temporary substitute is not really equipped to solve such sound dilemmas).

Next Day is the nice opening track: an "hypnotic" atmosphere, a bass/drums ostinato, a slow theme for soprano sax/guitar, the latter with volume swells and surprising, cascading harmonics; drums are played using brushes on the snare, cymbals and toms; nice, brief guitar solos, with echoes and silences.

Breakfast has a unison of soprano sax/wha-wha guitar, with a joyous fusion theme, and a vivacious soprano solo, the final result being not too far from vintage Jukka Tolonen.

Penguin Village is a bossa sporting a tenor sax, a nice theme, a good guitar solo with echo, and a "hushed" sax.

De Trein Naar Ulan Bator has an almost postcard-sounding "Oriental" theme, vivacious brushes on the toms, and a good solo from the baritone sax.

Blues For Penelope has an opening with volume swells from the guitar, plus an Hammond, which is not too distant from some duos by Jeff Beck/Tony Hymas, complete with "rubato", echoes, and drastic string bending. Nice theme played by the soprano sax. The guitar solo reminded me quite a bit of Frank Zappa, in the modes, scales, and honking wha-wha, with just a pinch of Jeff Beck, and traces of The Deathless Horsie.

Hop is a brief, joyous calypso, featuring baritone sax, brushes, and a spiky guitar played slide, really beautiful.

Wrong Train is a vivacious bossa, with a nice soprano solo, and a close on the baritone.

Downunder has a guest musician playing the double bass. There's a "singable" theme played on the baritone sax, then a very nice B section. Then, an excellent guitar solo: again, the timbre here is quite à la Frank Zappa, but the solo itself is much nearer to Jeff Beck and his "variations on a theme" strategy (think: 'Cause We've Ended As Lovers).

Kortjakje has an agile fusion development, a soprano sax solo, the Hammond plus Leslie.

Een Stukje Structuur proved to be one of my favorite tracks: nice harsh/angular theme played over a rhythmic ostinato, a nice guitar solo which almost sounds "backwards", a nice baritone sax, (just) for a moment Gentle Giant came to my mind.

For A Dog is really beautiful: Hammond organ, double bass, guitar, it has a melodic development (almost like Sleep Dirt), with a nice organ close.

Silver is well-behaved fusion, with a good soprano solo.

The Lake Isle Of Innisfree is the beautiful last track of the CD, with the guitar in a solo arpeggio mode.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2008 | June 19, 2008