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Dennis González - The Great Bydgoszcz Concert

Ken Shimamoto, Fort Worth Weekly

It arrives with a somewhat portentous title, recalling Duke Ellington's The Great Paris Concert or Ornette Coleman's The Great London Concert. But this latest offering from the prodigiously talented and prolific Gonzalez family of Oak Cliff -- father Dennis (trumpet) and sons Aaron (bass) and Stefan (drums) -- earns its stripes, a magnificent artifact of a ten-year-old group that's just now beginning to hit its stride.

In the last twelve months, they've given us Renegade Spirits, a complex improvisational dialogue with Art Ensemble of Chicago percussionist Famoudou Don Moye and Nawlins saxophonist Tim Green; Scape Grace, a lovely duet album that pairs Dennis with Portuguese pianist Joao Pablo; and A Matter of Blood, a quartet outing in which Dennis, ex-Coltrane bassist Reggie Workman, pianist Curtis Clark and drummer Michael T.A. Thompson generate light as well as heat. Beyond that, the brothers continue to work together and separately in hardcore punk (their duo Akkolyte) and experimental contexts, as well as jazz. (Release of Aaron's ambient outfit Age of Disinformation on Mayyrh Records is imminent.)

The Great Bydgoszcz Concert (it's pronounced "by gosh," a fact commented on in the title of the closing group improv) documents a Polish tour Yells At Eels made in March of 2008, the basic trio augmented by Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, the brothers' bandmate in guitarist Luis Lopes' Humanization 4tet. Guitarist Morgan Craft opines (and I agree) that it takes ten years to achieve proficiency on an instrument, another ten to achieve mastery. Using that criterion, Aaron and Stefan are right on track; their performances on this date represent as much of a quantum leap over their substantial achievement on 2006's Geografia as that record was over 2002's Home Away From Home/Pictogram. Having long ago progressed beyond merely holding their own in the rarefied improvisational atmosphere their father inhabits, they've become strong enough players in their own right to push their sounds into the air next to anyone.

Stefan's 15-minute-plus "Crow Soul" opens the proceedings with a ceremonial tattoo on toms that shifts to snare and cymbals as Aaron enters with a rumbling ostinato, then Dennis' octave-pedaled trumpet states the majestic theme, his long tones standing in stark relief against the busy rhythm section. Amado's solo starts slowly, building intensity as it unfolds. The brothers momentarily dispense with the pulse behind their father's solo, Gonzalez pere sounding pensive at first, then more assertive. Aaron makes a pithy statement of his own before the theme returns, this time played by the horns in unison.

The bracing theme to Ornette Coleman's "Happy House" hits with the shock of the familiar before the rhythm section races off behind Dennis' tortuous solo, Aaron walking -- actually more like sprinting at this tempo -- while Stefan starts out where Billy Higgins left off before careening into orbit, pushing the time and playing a furious, responsive counterpoint to Amado's robust explorations, then plays an explosive, cartwheeling solo of his own. Aaron's "Joining Pleasure with Useful" is almost a funk dirge, while Amado's "Dialeto da Desordem" is a bracing freeblow romp. "Document for William Parker" and "Elegy for a Slaughtered Democracy" have both evolved a ways since they were first recorded on Geografia. The dolorous "Litania" was composed by the late Polish trumpeter (and Rosemary's Baby soundtrack composer) Krzysztof Komeda, whose 1966 album Astigmatic is a touchstone for European jazzers.