Joseph Benzola - "Dig The New Breed"
(Amanita Music 2000, 005)
From Aural Innovations #10 (June 2000)
Joseph Benzola's music is a challenge to describe. He has a unique way of combining the experimental jazz of the 50's-60's masters like Sun Ra, Coltrane, and Miles Davis, with the equally adventurous 20th Century Classical pioneers, and avant-electronic explorations. Some pieces have a more traditional feel, others are well beyond the stratosphere. For his fifth release, Benzola expands on the music heard on his previous disc, "The Sound Of One Hand Clapping".
The first two tracks continue his "Portraits Of The Dead" series. "Lester Bowie" opens as a virtual symphony of "things that can be hit". A 12-minute onslaught of bells, whistles, harmonica, marimba, and various other percussion. Sometimes the whistle/flute takes the lead, sometimes the marimba. The music has an upbeat feel until the last two minutes when the atmosphere becomes dark and electronic. "Tony Williams" is an obvious next addition to the Portraits series as Williams was still alive when The Sound Of One Hand Clapping was recorded. Nothing freaky here. Just cool jazz drumming. And while Benzola focuses on the kit itself more than he typically does, he embellishes the music with his other percussive toys, demonstrating as he has in the past that percussion alone can be a symphony unto itself.
On "The Conversation" we now board the ship that leaves Earth and head into the cosmos. "The Conversation" is actually a short written work by Benzola (Click HERE to read). A robotic voice reads the dialogue backed by intense, and often jarring synths. The focus of the dialogue is on a dead dog and plastic, and while I wouldn't presume to comment on the meaning of it all, I did read along while listening which made the experience all the more freaky.
"Perception is hallucinogenic... if you were to drink your plastic in a liquid state, you would hallucinate."
"I would also die."
"That is the ultimate hallucination. Plastic is so versatile, isn't it?"
Two of my favorite tracks are "Epiphany" and "Partch & Taylor Jamming After Absinthe". These intense percussion/keyboard dueling freakouts are precisely what Benzola excels at! On "Epiphany", a high-pitched organ with a bit of wah-wah injected into it blasts out manic runs while the percussion symphony blazes along with equal fervor. At three minutes this is one of Benzola's shorter tracks, but this is potent stuff and the statement doesn't need any great length to be articulated. "Partch & Taylor" is a similar track, but here it's the piano that duels with the percussion. Benzola is a man possessed on the instrument producing a near ivory meltdown.
"Boll Weevil", "Mystic Dance For E. Ghent", and "Distant Memories" are the more purely electronic pieces on the disc. "Boll Weevil" is a dark textural piece with a bit of an avant-classical feel. Loops, efx, sonic walls of noise, and a parade of freaky voicings make this quite a trip. And "Mystic Dance For E. Ghent" and "Distant Memories" each feature multiple layers of pure psycho electronica embellished by percussion. Electronic music is so much more interesting when it's accompanied by REAL percussion so it's a treat to have such music performed by a musician who considers himself a percussionist first. In summary, this is an exciting disc and I would rank Benzola among my hottest discoveries of 1999. Highest recommendation.
For more information you can visit the Joseph Benzola web site at: http://web.mac.com/jbenzola/iWeb/amanitamusic.
Email at: email@example.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz