Paul Sherman, James Sullivan, Rachel
Arnold, Brad Dutz
Selected Reviews of "When Manatees Attack" (CD, pfMENTUM, Modern jazz/modern classical)
When Manatees Attack is a peculiar album...which is nothing less than we would expect from Brad Dutz and and the almost-always s-perplexing pfMENTUM label. On this album, Dutz plays a variety of odd percussion instruments and elicits assistance from Paul Sherman (oboe, english horn), James Sullivan (bass clarinet, G clarinet), Rachel Arnold (cello), and Jasper Dutz (clarinet). The compositions on this album are rather stark and slightly herky-jerky in nature...often sounding like the soundtrack to an avant garde cartoon. Our favorite track is the strange, lengthy "Biff the Salesman" which features some subtle and unconventional xylophone playing. Other bizarre compositions include"Spongy Bark," "Insulated Potato Wedges," and the title track. Brad Dutz never fails to entertain...and When Manatees Attack is another striking addition to his already impressive catalog. Intelligent and thought provoking. (Rating: 5)
I am not sure what the sound of manatees attacking is but maybe it might somewhat have aspects of the title track. Beyond that we have a creative yet clean album that features instruments that rarely get the limelight. On this project we hear an interesting mix of instruments especially the wide range of percussion and other sounds by DUTZ. In many places I thought I might be listening to a movie or nature score or theme. Some wildlife documentaries occasionally used oboes and horns to present frolicking young animals and here and there that image popped into my head. Musically there are long cuts that develop a theme and there's lots of tight, light and bright playing or jamming. This is great creative and experimental stuff and is a refreshing break from the overly commercial stuff. I think this CD is more for the afficionado of oboe, clarinet, english horn, and percussion. Just listening to the music is relaxing for the most part and some will find many uses [for it] such as for background sounds, relaxing and meditation, or for a follow along. Lots of talent here and clearly a different sound.
BRAD DUTZ - When Manatees Attack (pfMentum 042; USA) Featuring Paul Sherman on oboe & English horn; James Sullivan on bass clarinet & G clarinet; Rachel Arnold on cello and Brad Dutz a wealth of assorted percussion & all compositions plus special guest Jasper Dutz Bb clarinet for one piece. This is percussion wiz, Brad Dutz, 6th disc as a leader on pfMentum, after having a couple on Nine Winds. Each disc that Brad has been involved with has different personnel and instrumentation. "Spongy Bark" has some wonderful, Zappa-like modern classical composing for marimba, two clarinets and cello, with a tap-dancing xylophone solo in the middle. While Brad's spirited, crafty percussion is often at the center of each piece, his writing for clarinet, double reeds and cello is consistently engaging. One thing I like about Brad is that he doesn't play a drum-kit, yet he always keeps the rhythm flowing on other percussion instruments like congas, dumbek, darbouka and marimba. There is something special about the sound/blend of a bass clarinet, oboe, cello and a marimba, that makes this both unique and consistently intriguing. It reminds me of the Oregon (the group) often combined various cultures and styles, thus becoming something unique and in between categories. At 73 plus minutes, I had thought that this disc might be too long, however it is quite rich, enchanting and provocative throughout. - BLG
October 04, 2007 By Erik R. Quick
Percussionist Brad Dutz has an astounding range of performance and recording credits, from Leo Kottke and Kiss, to Frank Sinatra and Kenny Loggins. On When Manatees Attack, the Los Angles based musical chameleon both inspires and confuses. The result is a strange mix of improvisatory eclecticism rooted within twentieth century classicism. Although compositional in texture, the expressive components contain elements of great surprise, which illustrate the strong improvisational skills of the performers. Oboist Paul Sherman is based in California and spends much of his time performing classical music. His compositional influences include Carter, Boulez and Ligeti, amd such interests are apparent in the timbre and texture of his instrument. James Sullivan considers bass, contra-alto and contra-bass clarinets to be specialties and also focuses on a great deal of twentieth century performance. Cellist Rachel Arnold is heard only as a texturalist throughout, making her participation less evident or interesting. The compositions, all of which are written by Dutz, are seemingly titled with an intent to interest strangely. Spongy Bark begins with a frenetic and disjointed melodic line, which could easily have been written by Carl Stallings in a Stravinsky mood. Dutz's marimba darts through the oboe and bass clarinet. At times, the winds are in unison; elsewhere they are clearly reciting a composed conversation, with composition and improvisation are unequivocally intertwined. Insulated Potato Wedges is a lazy yet coherent discourse involving seemingly incompatible musical companions. The cello begins with slow, single tone bowing, providing an ominous undercurrent. The oboe enters with a short expressive melodic line and, as it drifts off, the clarinet continues with an entirely different message of tension. The feeling of great stress continues until the xylophone's frenetic and disjointed passage attempts to create yet another atmosphere of discord. The result is never boring, compelling anticipation of the next turn of phrase or conversation. Biff the Salesman is not a diligent spokesman for a rewarding product, but a forgetful reprobate on a frolic of his own. The oboe and marimba dominate much of the proceedings, with the latter providing an undercurrent of manic arpeggios, while the English horn and clarinet state a seemingly haphazard melody in unison. They continue the conversation in a deliberate and clearly cooperative manner, until the instruments each take their own free turn. Much of the music darts about without a specific melody or tonal center, and also with no specific allegiance or dedication to absolute free form. Dutzs playing propels the group forward throughout, yet it is never clear whether the eventual destination has been determined. The music is restless, yet satisfying; highly polished in its written passages, and also deftly improvised at other times. And never dull.
February 07, 2007 By Mark Corroto
Growing up with Warner Brothers cartoons created a subliminal soundtrack for life. Certainly the rising notes you heard in your head were for someone walking up a staircase, then there was the creeping-around-thecorner music. Later we learned this music was all produced with great thought and skill by Carl Stalling and an orchestra of highly skilled musicians, borrowing sounds from Raymond Scott and the visual storytelling traditions of Western classical music. Listening to the chamber pieces delivered by percussionist Brad Dutz on this disc brings to mind images of cartoons real and imagined. He does this through his grouping of various percussive instruments, chiefly the marimba, vibraphone, and xylophone with oboe, English horn, cello and various clarinets. This release follows the highly acclaimed Nine Gardeners Named Ned (pfMentum, 2005), an extended form piece with similar instrumentation. With Ned and Manatees, Dutz draws on his extensive soundtrack work for movies and television. He has also backed the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Willie Nelson and Kiss. (Yes, Kiss.) He has also made music which should be more familiar to jazz listeners, including work with West Coast improvisers Vinnie Golia, Jeff Kaiser and Alex Cline. The precision of the compositions was what made Stallings music so special, and the same is true for Dutz's music. He spaces the players' notes into snapping order on the opening Spongy Bark D to create a very picturesque landscape. The unique chamber sound conjures the natural movement of the minds eye. Biff The Salesman is built on a repeated pattern Dutz lays down, to which plucked cello, horn and woodwinds remark. The mallets, clarinet, oboe and cello configuration of Hiram Becomes Ulysses makes for a restrained wrapping and unwrapping of ideas. The centerpiece of the recording is the nearly fourteen-minute Mutilated Grass the least structured of Dutz's compositions. Players slowly unfurl the piece, wrapping their rising sounds around each other, until the halfway point, where Dutz begins some hand drumming, which propels the others in a different direction. The members of the quartet, supplemented by Jasper Dutz, twists a double helix dance around each other in this propulsion of chamber energy. Here they replace the whimsy with a very heady listening experience.
May 2007 JAZZTIMES By Chris Kelsey
It's rare that I listen to a record that, from the first note, grabs and holds me. This one does. Dutz is an L.A. session cat who plays free-jazz on the side-only he doesn't play it like it's a sideline, but like it's the reason he gets up in the morning. This fancifully titled album has Dutz composing for an ensemble consisting of Paul Sherman on oboe and English horn; James Sullivan on bass clarinet and G clarinet; Rachel Arnold on cello and the leader on all manner of percussion...everything, it seems, except drum kit. Dutz writes highly contrapuntal music that relies on modern classical techniques of tonal, rhythmic and formal organization. The music is generally light of texture. It has the air of "chamber" music without the stuffiness such a label might imply. The musicians play with precision but let the music breathe naturally. It's not as obsessively tight as classical music, but has that ineffable manner of informality that the best jazz seems to always have. The solos are creative, the compositions consistently fine, and Dutz's colorful percussion always spot-on. It's more classical than jazz, but more importantly, it's much on the positive side of Duke's "good music/bad music" divide. May 16,2007 By Jim Santella As percussionist Brad Dutz leads this improvising quartet in a program of his own compositions, he draws a connecting line between the classical music literature and modern jazz. With instruments such as oboe, English horn, cello and clarinet, you get the distinct feeling that you're sitting in on an afternoon of chamber jazz in a small auditorium somewhere near home. But his session is much more than that. Moving with exotic charm, the ensemble interprets his program with flair. Dutz deftly moves his feature across the spectrum, including program spotlights on xylophone, congas, marimba, vibraphone and various drums. Dutz's son Jasper, who must be in his early teens by now, co-wrote Insulated Potato Wedges, and joins the ensemble on clarinet for this adventure. Together, he and the others launch a pleasant surprise that rolls comfortable and mellow on padded wheels. Brad Dutz has touched jazz from all angles. After studying at North Texas State and Berklee, he toured as the late trumpeter Maynard FergusonafTMs drummer in the early 1980s. Studio work in Los Angeles has provided him a firm foundation and allows for much freedom. His creative work with pfMENTUM has created many fruitful partnerships, which allow him to grow. As a vital force on the Southern California free jazz scene, he provides the kind of energy that multiplies successfully across the board.