Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Quartet
Cat. No.: SHCD101
Dennis Gonzalez trumpet, fluegelhorn, berimbau
John Purcell bass clarinet, alto sax, flute
Henry Franklin bass
Malachi Favors bass
W.A. Richardson drums
1. Enrico (Gonzalez) 7:34
2. Fortuity (Gonzalez) 2:22
3. Stefan (Gonzalez) 7:54
4. Hymn for Don Cherry (Gonzalez) 5:45
5. Boi Fuba (arr. Gonzalez) 3:00
6. Deacon John Ray (Purcell) 9:20
7. Doxology (Gonzalez) 6:42
Total time: 42:40
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"A stunning record, and all the more impressive for making its mark with
music that's essentially quiet and considered. The music here is so positive in
heart and mind it should give any listener new hope. One of the year's best releases."
Richard Cook, The Wire, September 1987
I always feel a rush of excitement when I experience the workings of an artist
in his or her prime. With Stefan, Dennis Gonzalez has certainly left me
with that feeling.
Dennis' new album is not necessarily about bop, although all the musicians involved
can play any note within any chord. It's not about avant-garde or free music although
Dennis has played much of that in his musical career. It's not about ''third world"
or ethnic musics, although Gonzalez is well-versed in the music of many cultures.
The music is all of these, yet none of these. This record is about good solid
new music with a strong sense of humanity.
Being fortunate enough to sit in on the sessions and learn about the intent of
the music (which is as important as the music itself) as well as the conception
and content, I was able to get a good overall idea of the guts of each tune.
The opening "Enrico" reflects Gonzalez's willingness to find musical
sources anywhere. The tune contains a bassline composed on piano by 16-year old
Eric "Enrico" Palos, a Mariachi student of Dennis' at North Dallas High
School. Dennis transcribed the bassline soon after hearing it and later fitted
a chord progression to it in half steps against the line in a challenging yet
The ensemble's sound is firmly established in this tune. Listen to the driving
rhythm section of bassist Henry Franklin and drummer W. A. Richardson, the smoothly
virtuoso bass clarinet lines of multi-reedist John Purcell, and Gonzalez's expressive
trumpet playing. According to Dennis, "Any one musician would have changed
the whole sound of the band." And he's right there's a perfect chemistry
Also notable here is Gonzalez's fluegelhorn solo. Whereas Art Farmer and others
hear the fluegel as a languid, mellow instrument, Dennis understands the horn's
more abstract implications. In his solo, Gonzalez invokes a quiet intensity using
a breathy attack and an unusually strident tone.
"Enrico" is dedicated not only to young Palos, but also to Italian trumpet
giant Enrico Rava, whose approach has greatly influenced Gonzalez.
"Fortuity" is a peaceful tune with a Satie-like ambience written by
drummer Richardson and Dallas multi-instrumentalist Roger Boykin. The piece was
originally intended for Richardson's musical drama, City of Glass.
Seemingly simple but actually quite complex, "Fortuity" changes chords
on every note. All the musicians play delicately, especially Purcell, whose overdubbed
bass flute/english horn lines were a test for his breath and embouchure control.
Against Gonzalez' muted trumpet, the reeds make for a mini-orchestra. The concept
of "Fortuity" is breathtaking the harmonies cause the mood of
the tune to change on almost every note.
Gonzalez sees "Fortuity" as a paradox of the simple being complex and
vice-versa. "When something is complex, it's right there in front of your
eyes or ears; it's easy to explain." says Gonzalez. "When something
is simple you have to explain it more thoroughly.
The theory of simplicity again shines through in "Stefan". The simplicity
is in the three-note pattern played over a significantly more complex harmonic
structure. Originally penned for Gonzalez's Ambient Music Ensemble, this tune
is a dedication to his infant son, Stefan.
The opening section lends a celestial, church-like atmosphere to the proceedings,
with Purcell's synthesizer lines especially appropriate. The section is pensive
and uplifting, with a flowing undercurrent provided by Richardson's military snare
The second section begins with Purcell's bass clarinet providing a buoyant backing
for Franklin's high-register bass solo.
Whether solo or in accompaniment, Henry's playing is most inspiring with a powerful
glissando style that is articulate, punchy, and very original. In his ensemble
playing, Franklin's sliding pitch approach provides plenty of freedom for the
other musicians to play within.
Part three of "Stefan" features the voices of the ensemble, all extending
the vocal gymnastics John Purcell explores with his group, Third Kind Of Blue.
This vocal section consists of a New Orleans street scene. Here, Purcell is a
fruits and flesh merchant, W. A. Richardson is a hard-nosed preacher, and Henry
Franklin is a civil-rights activist. Gonzalez represents the much ignored Spanish
flavor of New Orleans while he ponders the mysteries of life.
The last section ends as it began with the same celestial, simplistic, church-like
atmosphere as Purcell and Gonzalez work together to interweave the three-note
pattern with the complex harmonic structure beneath; trumpet against synthesizer
trumpet with synthesizer.
Side two begins with the energetic "Hymn For Don Cherry", based on a
double-time version of the traditional hymn, "At The Cross". The introduction
and recurring theme breaks the melody into one and a half measures of bass and
horns and three and a half measures of solo drums, lending an AACM feel to the
tune. This part was particularly tricky for the musicians, resulting in several
false starts in the studio before the piece finally took off.
All of the solos are notable here. Purcell's Rahsaan Roland Kirk/James Newton-inspired
flute solo screams with delight, aided by his great logic and a respect for the
changes. Gonzalez's fluegelhorn solo respects not the changes, but the tune's
mood and feel. With this freer approach, Dennis sneaks in strange intervals and
notes "in between the cracks", while all the time hinting at Cherry's
initial bop influence. Franklin's solo swings more mightily than anything else
he plays on the album a substantial statement. On "Hymn For Don Cherry",
the ESP between the players is stunning; this ensemble sounds like a full-time
"Boi Fuba" is a touching Brazilian cowboy song that Gonzalez discovered
while taking a Portuguese language class. After receiving a tape copy, Dennis
arranged the music for his group. The introduction consists of Gonzalez on pao
de churva (rain stick a shaker), berimbau, congas, bells, and toy chimes
with Purcell on double-tracked bass flute. John's overdubbing adds depth
and richness while contrasting the melody and harmony.
This piece, like "Fortuity", is very short. The melody is stated only
twice, while the rhythm section only plays it once. There are no solos here; none
are needed. As Gonzalez says, "It makes you want more but leaves you satisfied
that the statement is complete."
''Deacon John Ray" is Purcell's sole composition for the album. Purcell,
who plays alto here, wrote this jaunty tune to emphasize the group's sound
a sound which encompasses hymn-like "songs".
On "Deacon", the contrast between the differing approaches to soloing
is at its most evident. John's solos are basically eighth-note lines played inventively
within the chord changes, while Gonzalez's solos are double-time and based on
abstract modes that only ''hint at'' the changes. Dennis' solo on "Deacon
John Ray" is on pocket trumpet the instrument Gonzalez feels is the
most abstract to approach.
Just as in his DAAGNIM releases which preceded this, Dennis Gonzalez demonstrates
on this record that he is willing to keep his music fresh and unique. Dennis is
blessed with an open mind, an open set of ears, and a humane approach to music
that should keep this freshness alive.
Contributor to Jazziz Magazine