[From: JAM Magazine]
Jazz Ambassador Magazine Link!
....> http://www.jazzkc.org <

Bill Crain
Iron Jazz Recordings

Personnel: Bill Crain, soprano, alto, tenor saxophones, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, percussion, synthesizer; Wayne Hawkins, piano and synthesizers; Brian Harman, electric and acoustic guitars; Bob Blount, electric bass; Todd Strait, drums; Gary Helm, Michael DeLeon, percussion

Tracks: Get Up; Waltz for Little C; Samba Daddium; Get Real Mon!;
My Lament; Kickin' Back; Havana Diana; Soul Mate; Dirty Tricks

Recorded, mixed and mastered at BRC Audio Productions, Kansas City, MO; Bill Crain, engineer.

Bill Crain's Dirty Tricks showcases this Renaissance Music Man's varied talents. Not only does he compose a pack of fine songs in a wide variety of styles and play a slew of wind instruments on them, but he deftly engineers it all, as well.

Crain plays alongside some of KC's finest players here, highlighting their strengths not only through how he interacts and grooves with them, but also through the way he listens. He captures their spirit well on disk, attuned to the finer nuances of the art. Crain captures those quieter moments many recording engineers miss.

Crain's own playing is dynamic. His entrance on the first track sounds like the first few hurried, poignant words of a man who has just encountered an old, good friend who has been away for years. His tone is full. He's sure of himself, but he knows he may have little time before the next parting. So, he leaps in. He has much to say.

Furthermore, the duet Crain plays with Todd Strait on the opening tune, "Get Up," is worth the cost of the album. I've replayed this track countless times. Each time, it gets better. Not only do Crain and Strait create a finely textured, subtle musical conversation, where the tune's melody is echoed from saxophone to drums, but Crain's engineering gets showcased, too. It's one of the finest recorded renderings of Strait's intricate, clock-maker-precise style I've ever heard. Those grace notes most recordings either lose or muffle, Crain pinpoints and magnifies, yet without losing the overall balance. "Get Up" is a duet still, never a drum solo. And Crain mixes it with pin-drop precision, accentuating the intricacies of Strait's subtle, intellectual style.

Wayne Hawkins shines on "My Lament," a ballad that rolls like a trickling mountain brook. And on "Soul Mate," Bob Blount solos soulfully and frenetically, electric and quick. On this album Crain, like Ellington, appears to have that knack for spotlighting his players' gifts.

As for stylistic diversity, "Get Real Mon" is reggae, and it grooves slyly, like a snake on a junkyard tire. On "Samba Daddium," the percussionists rustle up a forest-full of sounds, and "Havana Diana," an Afro-Cuban tune, allows the group to groove to a 6/8 polyrhythmic stop-and-go gait. The title cut, "Dirty Tricks," signals well this album's thrust for stylistic diversity, changing styles, tempos, and time signatures, both often and seamlessly.

--Kevin Rabas

> Return to MusicPage <