By Paul de Barros | Published June 2017
Pianist Andrew Durkin’s most recent recording before this 37-minute album came eight years ago with the much-loved, Los Angeles-based Industrial Jazz Group. This is Durkin’s first solo effort, and he’s accompanied by an ensemble originally called Proto-Human, composed of players from Portland, Oregon, where Durkin lives. The group is not as madcap as the meta-musical IJG, whose iconoclasm bears a kinship with the Willem Breuker Kollektief (or Frank Zappa), but it retains Durkin’s quirky sense of irony and Monk-like penchant for breaking music down to its bare bones—then clanking them together with intimate instrumental pairings. The sextet executes exquisitely, with an airy, light touch and cartoonish cheekiness that recall Raymond Scott.
Durkin sets the mood with the martial throb of “Flower Gun Song,” then moves swiftly to the title track, in 7/4, which jauntily crosses darkness with playful optimism (à la Scott). The sudden changeups feel like a rabbit running out of cliff. “Brega” offers a dose of Brazilian sincerity, showcasing the sweetly legato alto saxophone of David Valdez, the album’s star soloist. He and piping tenor man Tim Willcox dance across bar lines over the snare backbeat of “My One And Only Vice” (love Durkin’s titles) and Ryan Meagher’s guitar sprouts dark, bluesy fuzz on “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Tear Gas.”
Durkin has been sidelined all these years by the chronic pain of spinal arthritis, but by practicing a yoga technique that inspired the album’s title, he managed to make new music. Let’s hope there’s more to come.
Breath Of Fire: Flower Gun Song; Breath Of Fire; Brega; Psycho- pomp Stomp; The Spiral Staircase; My One And Only Vice; Rock, Paper, Scissors, Tear Gas; Vena Cava. (36:42)
Personnel: Andrew Durkin, piano; David Valdez, alto saxophone; Tim Willcox, tenor saxophone; Ryan Meagher, guitar; Andrew Jones, bass; Todd Bishop, drums.