Rich West: Bedouin Hornbook (PFMCD016)


Rich West Bedouin Hornbook

Chris Heenan: bass clarinet, alto saxophone
Bruce Friedman: trumpet
Jeremy Drake: electric guitar
Scot Ray: eb tuba
Rich West: drums

1. Bugge 11:20
2. Tribology 6:34
3. Twang 14:41
4. Tread 8:22
5. Friends of the Vacuum 9:00
6. Tychai 1 and 2 7:25
7. Curly 4:10
8. Furcifer 6:44
Total Time 68:16

All compositions by Rich West
©2004, Richwest Recordings, ASCAP
Recorded April 29, 2002 and March 12, 2003
Recorded and Mastered by Scott Fraser
Mixed by Rich West and Scott Fraser
at Architecture, Los Angeles, CA
CD Design and Layout by Jeremy Drake and Jeff Kaiser

“The sad thing about L.A. is that it’s hard keeping people in the same room for extended periods of time.”
— Rich West

The title is from a book by Nate Mackey, which I haven’t read. However, in the spirit of Richard Meltzer’s infamous “previews” of bands to whom he’s neither listened or talked prior to writing about them, I’ll concentrate on the nomadic implications of Bedouin (from Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language); nomad, “a member of a tribe, nation or race having no permanent home, but moving about constantly in search of food, pasture, etc.”, and suggest that this band is composed of nomads as only an L.A. band can be. Luckily, Rich West was able to get them in the same room at least long enough to produce this exuberant album. It’s not just that the tunes (he says, “everyone had a hand in some of the arrangements”) are strong and interesting (shades of Igor Stravinsky, Frank Zappa, Nino Rota), the playing — both written and improvised — is, too.

A surprising variety of moods and textures is developed, ranging from the inviting and theatrical “welcome to the show” feel of Tribology to the especially attractive Gyuto-Monks-meet-Fellini scenario on Twang. The sounds are oddly appealing in some non-traditional ways (murky trumpet, bell-like guitar). When it’s all over, you feel as if you’ve been someplace new. I can’t imagine any other five players who could play this music and make that happen. This is music that knows the difference between self-expression and self-indulgence, for which we should all be very happy.

— Dorothea Grossman, Los Angeles, CA, October 2003



SKU: PFMCD016 Category:

1 review for Rich West: Bedouin Hornbook (PFMCD016)

  1. 0 out of 5

    What do you think of when you hear the words “Bedouin Hornbook,” the title of this disk? For most of us, it is probably an image of independent, proud, wandering desert dwellers, probably from somewhere in the Middle East. The music here, though, bears little, if any, relation to these mythic Arabic wanderers, and instead, as Dorothea Grossman cleverly opines in her liner notes, tongue planted firmly in cheek, the words might just refer to the Los Angeles-based nomads comprising the band. As with so much from the pfMENTUM label, you have to expect the unexpected, and although this one is less radical than many other releases from the label, it still incorporates those elements that keep the listener guessing. This is slightly left-of-center, quirky jazz, filtered by melody, and with a horn lineup of tuba, bass clarinet, and a trumpet that shies from the upper registers, there is a dark, sometimes brooding quality that lays a veil of noir. Rich West, the leader, is a drummer who composed (or in some cases, molded) all of the pieces, but as a performer he mostly subordinates his ego to the group sound. Each piece is different, and the combinations of instruments change regularly. The tuba and drums hold down the bottom, while the guitar acts in both a rhythmic and front line capacity. An example: What appears to be conch shells surrounded by computer pulses on “Twang” results from a delightful if surprisingly conservative blend of instrumentalists, which include Jeremy Drake, who contributes mightily on electric guitar, and Chris Heenan, who is able, remarkably, to coax didgeridoo-like pulses from the bass clarinet. Sometimes the group reminds the listener of the fast-paced work of Carlo Actis Dato, but with slightly less intensity, less kitsch, and greater diversity of sounds.

    Steven Loewy,

    Rich West is a really spontaneous drummer whose music on this album goes from creating eerie soundscapes to amazing rhythms. On this album he is playing together with amazing musicians such as Jeremy Drake on guitar, Scot Ray on tuba, Bruce Friedman on trumpet and Chris Heenan on clarinet and saxophone. Here they deliver amazing improvised phrases and incredible textures through all the album. Despite being really spontaneous and improvising all the time the band has not forgotten melodies and they deliver a lot of them through each of the compositions. It is incredible to listen the tuba delivering rhythms while the rest of the band delivers lines over that rhythms. Each composition here have many moods and multiple changes in pace and rhythm but my absolute favorites are the loneger ones where the band delivers more ideas and it is interesting to see how they develope their improvisations from beginning to end in more than ten minutes. A must for lovers of clever improvisation.

    Federico Marongiu/ Music Extreme,

    Rich West is a drummer who has brought together clarinet/sax, trumpet, guitar and tuba for a quintet on his album Bedouin Hornbook (pfMENTUM cd016, – a label which has appeared before). The drums do not come much to the foreground, and the music swings between solos and pumping group efforts, slowly developing Eastern moods and textural improv, hints of electronica (from the guitar?), walls of sound or searching tentiveness that finds carnivalesque exuberance. In other words an exciting and enticing combination of sounds that provides the pleasure and variety you would expect from five focussed musicians playing this range of instruments.

    jeremy, ampersand

    Rich West
    Bedouin Hornbook
    Drummer Rich West, die sinds het begin van de jaren tachtig actief is in de scene van Los Angeles, en er al speelde met onder meer Camper Van Beethoven, Eugene Chadbourne, Wolfgang Fuchs en Mike Watt, verrast ons met een cd vol eigen composities die door een kwintet aan gelijkgezinde locale musici wordt uitgevoerd. Zelf houdt hij zich nogal op de achtergrond, om ruim baan te maken voor de blazers. Terecht, zo blijkt, want Scott Ray laat zijn tuba bij momenten klinken als een diepe basgitaar, terwijl Chris Heenan met zijn basklarinet meermaals het geluid van een didgeridoo imiteert. Luister maar eens naar ‘Twang’ en u snapt wat we bedoelen. Bedouin Hornbook, vernoemt naar een boek van Nate Mackey, is een kruising van rock, improv en jazz die meermaals lonkt naar het werk van Henry Threadgill en Nino Rota. Niet wereldschokkend, niet zo sterk qua compositie maar het is vooral de diversiteit aan klankkleur, textuur en het amalgaam aan ongewone geluiden die uit de diverse instrumenten wordt gehaald, die deze cd tot een boeiende luisterervaring maken. Benieuwd naar zijn volgende werkstuk, laten we deze nog een rondje draaien, om opnieuw verrast te staan van een aantal eerder niet opgemerkte geluiden.
    Rich West
    Bedouin Hornbook
    Active in the LA scene since the early eighties, drummerboy Rich West was already playing with big daddies Camer Van Beethoven, Eugene Chadbourne, Wolfgang Fuchs, and Mike Watt. Now he presents to us a cd full of his own compositions orchestrated by a quintet of likeminded local musicians. He keeps himself at the back, to make way for the blazers, and so he should, ‘cause Scott Ray can make his tuba sound like a deep bass guitar, while Chris Heenan may imitate a didgeridoo with his bass clarinet. Just listen to ‘Twang’ and you know what I mean. Bedouin Hornbook, named after a Nate Mackey book, is a mixture of rock, improvisation, and jazz, often referring to the work by Henry Threadgill and Nino Rota. Nothing worldshocking, not quite strong in composition, but very diverse in soundtexture, with an amalgam of unusual sounds pulled out of rabbit’s hat. All of this turns this cd to the exciting listening experience it truly is. Curious to what he will do next, we take it for another spin in our player, yet again to be stunned by yet other unnoticed sounds.
    (transl. av)

    Patrick Bruneel, Gonzo Circus

    Un curieux projet développé par le batteur californien Rich West: mêler sur le même disque des compositions aux rythmiques millimétrées et l’improvisation au plus près de la matière sonore, les sons d’un tuba et d’une guitare électrique.
    Le quintet se compose de musiciens tous basés à Los Angeles, mais Rich West souligne qu’il est difficile de les réunir dans une même pièce, le temps d’enregistrer huit pièces ambitieuses. La bougeotte des participants et l’aspect instable de la vie dans une mégalopole comme L.A. lui ont peut-être fait accoucher de ce disque qui possède plusieurs axes et dont le titre fait référence à l’existence nomade, Bedouin Hornbook.
    Composés exclusivement par le batteur, les morceaux font appel à des rythmiques inhabituelles, des airs de valses enjoués, appuyés par les instruments à vent (Chris Heenan aux anches et Bruce Friedman à la trompette) ou des marches qui évoquent l’univers de Nino Rota: un tapis sonore virevoltant où se posent les interventions de solistes souvent lyriques. Ailleurs, comme sur la première partie de l’épique Twang (près de 15 minutes), c’est la recherche des sons qui structure le propos musical. Un cuivre se transforme en didgeridoo et se noie dans l’écho, tandis que la guitare fait apparaître des sonorités électroniques qui agrandissent le terrain de jeu des musiciens. Cette longue dérive ponctuée de riffs n’est rythmée par la batterie qu’en toute dernière partie. Plus loin, sur Curly, le son compact du groupe emprunte carrément au funk.
    Des instants de Bedouin Hornbook rappelleront le travail d’autres musiciens qui ont emmené leur jazz aux frontières du genre grâce à des apports stylistiques décalés, comme les Scandinaves Jaga Jazzist et leur fanfare aux accents pop ; ou des disques de Henry Threadgill, pour l’utilisation judicieuse de la guitare électrique, qui soutient de grandes envolées des souffleurs à l’unisson pour dynamiser le flux interne des compositions. Même si rien n’y apparaît totalement révolutionnaire, le carnet de bord de ces Bédouins de L.A. décrit un territoire qui leur est propre, notamment par l’intégration de formes de musiques populaires un brin désuètes qui sont transposées dans l’univers du compositeur.

    (12/12/2004) (Thibaut Lemoine)

    This is one of the most interesting CD’s I’ve heard (yet) in 2005… West’s drums and percussion are highlights, but the other improvisors that join in on the fun (Chris Heenan on reeds, Bruce Friedman on trumpet, Jeremy Drake on electric guitar & Scot Ray on tuba) are certainly given “equal time”. The opener, “Bugge”, will make you think (perhaps) that this is “just another scatterbrained improv session – until they move into th’ groove. & though ’tis a strange groove, it is nevertheless a “pattern” of sorts. Jazz in one of those “odd” veins, this reaches out & makes yer’ ears stand at attention. This comes in from one of our favorite labels for improvised & creative music, pfMENTUM… & they don’t disappoint at all. Since it’s a drum-oriented performance, I’ve no doubt why “Curly” (track 7) was my favorite… Rich has those drums soundin’ much like a freight train on th’ intro, & there’s a bass “riff” kickin’ in, under, down & through th’ whole thing that will (almost) make ya’ wanna’ get up & dance. An all-round FUN album that communicates to/with th’ listener in the language of JOY (which is, I think, th’ best dialect that music can converse in). This one gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from our ears… if you’re “uninitiated”, you’ll need to listen to this with phones, though.

    Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj
    Prime perpetrator & Incipient Instigator
    Zzaj Productions & Improvijazzation Nation

    ‘Bedouin Hornbook’ risulta fin dalle prime battute essere opera costantemente in bilico fra estremo rigore compositivo e più astratte porzioni strumentali libere.

    Scritto e prodotto dal batterista di L.A. Rich West ‘Bedouin Hornbook’ trova il suo equilibrio vincente grazie ad una struttura di stampo quasi da classico gruppo Jazz sulla quale vengono di volta in volta innestate suggestioni ora di stampo avant, sapori vagamente blues, corrosive e divertite scorribande al limite di certo folklore balcanico; e buon ultimo un sottile venticello che sembra giungere cupo da antichi percorsi quasi no wave.

    Gruppo di musicisti dal muscolo lucido e dal pensiero affilato quelli coinvolti nell’esecuzione, Chris Heenan, Bruce Friedman, Jeremy Drake; Scot Ray e chiaramente lo stesso West.

    Tutto perfettamente riuscito in un girotondo piacevolmente vorticoso di atmosfere quasi sempre tratteggiate da notevoli zone d’ombra che si colorano e si accendono spesso di ritmi e melodie fischiabilissimi in un calderone sonoro dove sembra realmente ribollire di tutto.

    Viaggio nomade fra culture diverse, spasmi balcanici dicevamo che potrebberò rivelarsi anche possibili influenze o tributo a Nino Rota o forse ancor di più all’opera filmica di Fellini, squadrate progressioni ritmiche tutt’uno con i fiati che disegnano geometrie memorizzabilissime quasi figlie dei B Shops For The Poor o di certo Cutler pensiero, fumose ed oscure distese che quasi quasi raggiungono soglie da estasi leggiadra nel loro strisciare covanti che vengono azzannate alla gola da riff assassini che blues quasi paiono; steccate secche e pesanti che della New York altamente instabile di fine anni settanta parlano lo stesso linguaggio.
    Twang è brivido che corre, ampie distese di didgeridoo, fiati sbocconcellati, ampli in leggera saturazione e delay circolari che creano per diversi minuti una distesa oscura e pacifica prossima alla sensazione dolorosa creata dagli Nperign ma in questo caso si accende ad intermittenza una progressione dolente e vagamente latina che nel suo cammino si sfasa e anima anche di sottili filamenti funk; entusiasmante a dir poco.

    Opera argutissima senza dubbio in grado di cavalcare molteplici opzioni stilistiche senza mai indulgere eccessivamente in nessuna, il difficile reso molto ma molto fruibile con una puntina di acido a colare sul tutto a mò di condimento.


    Aggiunto: August 22nd 2004
    Recensore: Marco Carcasi

    Bedouin Hornbook (pfMENTUM 016) Featuring Chris Heenan on bass clarinet & alto sax, Bruce Freedman on trumpet, Jeremy Drake on electric guitar, Scot Ray on tuba and Rich West on drums and compositions. LA seems to be filled with a large scene of lesser-known musicians who consistently make interesting music, whether anyone notices or not. After John Carter and Bobby Bradford (who is still around, teaching and playing), the next generation of LA’s finest includes the Cline brothers (Nels & Alex) and Vinny Golia (originally from the Bronx). Thanks to great labels like Nine Winds, Cryptogramophone and now, pfMENTUM, another community of strong players is emerging. Trumpeter Jeff Kaiser’s new label has recently released six CDs and all are intriguing in their own way. I don’t know much about the members of Rich West’s quintet, other than recognizing their names from a few discs on 9 Winds or Crypto, but I do remember a fine disc from tuba player Scot Ray from last year. ‘Bedouin Hornbook’ is an impressive offering from this adventurous quintet. “Bugge” opens with some mysterious, growling dijeradoo-like sounds and other eerie sonics. With no bass, the tuba often plays the bass lines with the drums while the guitar, sax and trumpet play those intricate charted sections. Rich’s writing is quite diverse, each piece a different challenge for the quintet. On “Twang”, the guitar plays these tight patterns while the horns play the quirky melody. What’s odd about this music is that there is little jazz influence (swinging) going on here. On “Twang”, the tuba sets the pace and structure and takes the first strange solo, the guitar, trumpet and sax play the strange circus-like parts throughout the piece, with a few warped guitar licks inserted here and there. A number of these pieces are broken into connected sections, where two or three instruments will play their parts together as another player solos or as the rhythm team plays an interconnected part. While I find most of this music interesting, some of the jerky rhythms make it difficult to snap my fingers to. It will take some time to penetrate this odd, yet unique concoction.

    Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

    Creative music is very much alive, though many independent retailers, label owners, and even musicians will tell you that the current state of the biz is, for the most part, lousy. Despite these economic factors, a seeming multitude of shoestring-budget labels are out there documenting scenes both regional and national on a daily basis, and for that we are exceedingly fortunate. One such label, Southern California-based pfMENTUM, continues to document the rich and largely unheralded Los Angeles scene. One of its most noteworthy participants is drummer Rich West, who adds his Bedouin Hornbook to an already impressive pfMENTUM roster. While the L.A. crowd might be better known for its more classical/improv-based leanings, as opposed to jazz-improv focus, West’s eight compositions favor the latter—a framework that guides the ensemble and stimulates spirited improvisation. As for the disc’s more accessible moments, such works might sound comfortable alongside the Vandermark 5 or some of the “Downtown” collectives.
    Regarding the overall program and the musicians, this is no “drummer’s record”, as it lacks a lengthy drum-based showcase and/or selfish display of grandiose ego. Rather, it presents West in full cooperation with a similarly situated quartet. Regarding West’s co-conspirators, he draws some of his fellow Angelinos: Reedist Chris Heenan, trumpeter Bruce Friedman, guitarist Jeremy Drake and Scott Ray, who brings along his tuba here. From its initial moments, the ensemble presents a unique sound that consistently probes the boundaries of the compositions, guided by Ray’s tuba, Drake’s prickly guitar work and peculiar soundscapes, the frontline horn interplay, and West’s patchwork percussion.
    The venture begins with the twittering soundplay of “Bugge”, as Heenan’s moody bass clarinet blows exotic while Ray’s tubular groove brings the ensemble together, changing courses several times and eventually hooking up with one of the many carnivalesque/folkish themes present on the record. Next up is the ensemble’s most accessible track, “Tribology”, with its rockish drum patterns and thumping bottom line that drives Friedman’s darting trumpet lines, Drake’s barbed interjections and finally, Heenan’s incisive jaunts. Arguably, West’s most ambitious piece is the third track, “Twang”, beginning again with Heenan’s effected, whirring bass clarinet murmuring amidst a ghostly electronic thicket that eventually mixes with the horns and sturdy backbeat. This multi-sectioned 14-minute workout combines several shifts of approach, concluding with a grand festival climax.
    A similar loosely tethered, explorative vibe influences both “Tychai 1 and 2” and the finale, “Furcifer”. The former features the percussive rasps of the horns before a 6/8 tempo emerges and the latter, with its pensive beginnings that evolve into a lively knotted hornplay, finds Ray working with Friedman’s lyrical trumpet, Drake’s sonic textures, and Heenan’s bass clarinet for a recurring theme. Of these latter few pieces, “Curly” is arguably the strongest, with the heavy march-time funk from West’s kit amidst Drake’s chunka-chunka-chunka Family Stone guitar, invigorated by Ray’s intermittent overblown blasts.
    More than just an example of inventive music-making, Bedouin Hornbook offers evidence of West’s individuality, both compositionally and organizationally, as his collective steadfastly shares his vision.

    by Jay Collins
    25 August 2004,

    Nowadays, there are two divergent camps in the creative music arena—one that promotes overt, power-driven explosions and the other that opts for nuances, subtleties, and minimalist sound development. Groups often take on chameleon-like qualities, as does this band that touches a softer nerve but has specific leanings toward hearty, full-flavored sound. The extroverted character comes from the saxophonist and trumpeter, who spring off the drummer’s solid/varied rhythmic foundation with aggressive statements while the tuba player implants robust growls. The tuba’s hefty sound becomes the bass line, systematically establishing the pace to which the others parade. As they all crank up the volume, the music enters the circusy center ring.

    The band’s subtleties come in short spurts— from the guitarist’s sensitive interaction with the bass clarinetist, or the trumpeter’s smearing of tiny patches of sound, or the intelligent inputting of electronic stimulation. These segments bring a softer, more subdued ambiance to the otherwise energetic music that dominates the set. While free blowing is the norm, the tunes have a sturdy platform from which they launch. Structured themes become the catalyst for the musicians to spring into improvised solos having a high degree of combustive energy. Tune 3 offers an intriguing twist; long, guttural blowing is fed into the electronic mix to send up eerie vapors around which the guitarist spins a sinewy web. While the mist is rising, the tuba player propels soft, breathy phrases to herald the entry of the other horn players as they triumphantly announce the theme.

    When marching orders are issued by the authoritative drummer, the exuberant beat from the tuba player engulfs the bright blasts of the trumpeter and the retorts of the saxophonist. The drummer mixes in a wealth of percussive measures as the spearhead for the action. Explosions of a more volatile nature erupt frequently as basic themes become gateways to collective improvisation. Pairings are common; the trumpeter and guitarist spar, the tuba player and saxophonist jostle, and other combinations arise with the drummer, but the main ingredient is the band’s stalwart interaction around the meaty tunes. When everyone is spouting off loudly, a joyous aura permeates the set and raucous vibrations abound.

    -Frank Rubolino, Candence, September 2004

    “While Rich West plays drums, the album really features horns or at least they seem to come to the fore. One notices tuba, alto sax, clarinet, and trumpet versus guitars or drums, not that the latter aren’t present, they just don’t seem to stand out as much in some tracks such as on “Bugge” (11:20).

    The playing here is interesting–maybe a jazz jam, a classical jam session, an impromptu meeting, or a relaxing tune-up/jam/practice. The songs really go on as the players get into the groove. The album itself is almost an hour and ten minutes. It wasn’t until 8 minutes into the first track that the drums and everything else really came together into a very nice session.

    “Tribology” is a short (6:34) tune that really has some excellent work. Very solid playing make this track very accessible. The longest cut is a marathon 14:41(!). Titled “Twang” it is a journey in itself. Lots of playfulness and experimentation. Nice drumming and guitar are to be found well into the tune. The song clearly has a start, the main part, and the ending parts.

    On “Tread” (8:22) the drums open up the tune and set the mood. In places this sounds like the score to a mystery movie. A clever song title is #5 “Friends of the Vacuum.” Within the first minute some of the best drumming on the CD came to the front. The horn work was really powerful and dramatic, an example of what talented players can do. The meld of horns and then a fiery guitar made for an interesting mix.

    Other songs continue exploration of moods and textures. “Curly” is an avant-gardish track that offers many shades of colors. The project ends with the slowish “Furcifer.” Thus ends an interesting album. No fancy electronic effects, no this is just creative playing by West and friends.

    A. Canales, The Critical Review,

    “Written and produced by L.A.-based drummer Rich West with the aid arrangments of other performers of the city of angels, such ass Chris Heenan (reed – who, unless somebody forgot to write there was a Didgeridoo, is able to make one of his horns sound like one of those beautiful Australian instruments in an extraordinarily close way), Bruce Friedman (trumpet), Jeremy Drake (guitar) and Scot Ray (tuba), “Bedouin Hornbook” is definitely to be filed under the improvisational free-jazz no-wave experimental music shelf. I don’t have any info as to how much of this was scored and how much came up at the moment, but I’d say that compared to other albums you’d find on the same shelf, this one is most definitely “organized” and the compositions follow a logical direction and evolve in a more orderly fashion, so to say. In other words its very musical, which to me is a plus, and feels like a classically trained orchestra taking off on the wings of the free spirit of jazz, art-rock, kraut-rock and occasional sparks of latino, classical music etc. These fine musicians certainly know how to play together and it actually sounds like there’s many more of them playing together at once. The tuba comping and solos and the drum arrangments are especially fascinating and the arrangments of the horns and the guitar also interact very well. The entire album is quite interesting I must say, and will appeal to fans of Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Jeff Kaiser, Peter Frohmader, Jacopo Andreini and that entire scene, and will especially please those who appreciate that scene but wish for a little more composition and a little less improvisation.”

    Review by: Marc ‘the MEMORY Man’ Urselli-Schaerer,

    “Rich West composes a mosaic of different paths in acoustic experimentation. The music is a daring combination of elements typical of Contemporany Music, Alternative Jazz and Avantgarde Rock. Quite pieces are dynamic, with disturbing melodies, and aggressive rhytms. There are dark, slow passages.”


    “Though not devoid of fun, “Bedouin hornbook” is played with impassible rigour even in its improvised sections. Any visible influence is rinsed out with a millimetric sense of order; the optimization of each instrument’s peculiarity in marching band-styled pieces or complex counterpoints is this record’s best asset. Perpetrators of various genre-destroying juxtapositions, Chris Heenan (reeds), Bruce Friedman (trumpet), Jeremy Drake (guitar), Scot Ray (tuba) and Rich West (drums) collectively sniff the air to furbish their own sound without false starts or potshotting, excluding undertones from their vocabulary in order to avoid the doldrums of aural “no-way-outness”. Instead, Rich West’s quintet shoulders boredom away through spiky meetings of timbral niceties, managing to raise attention levels without niggling.”


    Bedouin Hornbook is the perfect moniker for this album. This is horn centric avant-garde jazz that, like the Bedouins, wanders around never finding a permanent home, but always leaving a mark and always contributing something significant. This is improvisational music that highlights each member of the band from time to time but never settles for anything as generic as solo showcasing or taking turns holding down the melody and beat while someone else takes 12 measures to showboat. This is intellectually and emotionally challenging music that in the end proves satisfying and rewarding.

    Jeb Toocrass
    Staff writer:
    Short, Fast + Loud (
    In Music We Trust (
    MindspelL (
    Ugly Planet (

    Approximately 50 years after California-made music was front and centre in the improv world, could we be in the midst of another West Coast Jazz phenomenon? On the evidence of some of the fine CDs recently released from the left side of the United States, the answer seems affirmative.
    Unlike the 1950-1960 Cool Jazz interregnum, which was more-or-less Los Angeles-based — with some San Francisco input — this one stretches from San Diego in the south all the way up to Seattle, or Vancouver and other parts of British Columbia, if you ignore national borders. Unlike the homogenized, airy sound of the earlier epic as well, it involves more abrasive, harder tones and excursions — although the real West Coast Jazz was never as musically facile as its detractors maintained.
    Like the musicians in 1950-1960 however, the 21st century players don’t base their complete identity in the West and often go elsewhere for protracted periods. Furthermore in 2005’s climate of globalization, the sounds they make are as related to similar improvisational strategies evolving in Vienna, New York and Berlin as they are to other happenings in the Golden State.
    That’s why these CDs, recorded in the same studio within six months of one another, and featuring two of the same musicians on both discs, sound so different. Drummer Rich West’s BEDOUIN HORNBOOK, a jaunty quintet session, built around Scott Ray’s tuba, is a scaled down cousin to rollicking ensembles like the ICP Orchestra. Guitarist Jeremy Drake and reedist Chris Heenan participate fully in this session, as does trumpeter Bruce Friedman. With drummer Stephen Flinn on TEAM UP however, Drake and Heenan are more atonal and busy exploring in methodical detail electro-acoustic improvising.
    Drake, who spends his time on the sonic and timbral possibilities of the amplified acoustic guitar, usually performs with other experimenters such as drummer Alex Cline and fellow guitarist G. E. Stinson. Yet on BEDOUIN’s “Tribology”, for instance, his tone is so straight and his fills so close to standard picking that you’d think you were hearing Herb Ellis. Similarly Heenan, whose associations include gigs with an improvising clarinet trio and an on-the-edge duo with New York guitarist Chris Forsyth, plays a surprisingly mellow alto saxophone on the same tune, although he does allow himself some squeaks at the end.
    Most of the piece’s shape comes from the rim shots and bounces of West, who when he isn’t improvising with free musicians like German multi-reedist Wolfgang Fuchs is playing in indie rock bands. Important imput also comes from a brassy and fussy trumpet lead from Friedman, who works elsewhere with Fuchs and Drake, plus the contrapuntal tuba ostinato from Scot Ray, who has not only been part of reedist Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble, but toured with Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly orchestra. All in all, the session sounds like what would happen if Prime Time met up with a Second Line Brass Band.
    Ray, who can slur and smear his textures on more jazzy pieces, gives a decadent Weimar Republic cabaret cast to “Friends of the Vacuum”, combining 1930s German pop and 1990s American rock. After some circling, chromatic trumpet runs, Drake expands his playing from finger picking to fuzztone licks and double-timed slides as the horn section vamps behind him. Here Friedman’s flutter tonguing is matched by rumbling drums and someone sounding what’s evidentially Harpo Marx’s old air horn — it is LA after all.
    West contributes a swinging march tempo and literal dance rhythms elsewhere, but the only time he’s involved with a Buddy Rich-like showiness is on “Tread”. Even on that piece, his solo serves as a bridge between two themes — one metallic and slow and the other airy and speedier. Heenan’s slinky, legato alto sax line is doubled by the tuba and drum decoration, and then Friedman contributes his variations on the themes in a higher register.
    Showpiece of the disc is the almost 15 minute “Twang”, which begins with a cistern-deep blast from tuba, then a spiccato bass line from the guitar. Throughout, the plectrumist uses scrapes to reshape and recapitulate the motif, while Ray supplies the pedal point continuum and West double strokes his drums. When it appears as if the slurred tuba lines, percussion ratamacues and frailing guitar licks are going to push the composition into dissonance, a jolly tarantella-like melody featuring tuba toots and Mr. Bones style drumming supersedes it. Combining, the five players exit the piece with a smooth polyphonic chord.

    Ken Waxman, , jan 2005

    Pfmentum and Pax Recordings are just two of the many labels on the left field forefront in quality releases in avant garde jazz and experimental compositions. Of the newest Pfmentum releases, Rich West’s Bedouin Hornbeck stands out as one of the more melodic, upbeat, and striking in dynamics. Players here are Chris Heenan- bass clarinet and alto sax, Bruce Friedman on the trumpet, Jeramy Drake- electric guitar, Scot Ray- Eb Tuba, and West on drums. The eight compositions are all rich in texture, with a light upbeat mood, and at times, the album plays like a band getting down with it at an all night festival. Other times, the written and improv tunes feel more organic and almost tribal, within a timeless quality and execution. The wonderful artwork only compliments it.

    Jeramy Ponder, JackalBlaster, Nov 2004

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