Jazz Institute of Chicago

Damon Short: Go Figure

Damon Short: Go Figure

It took almost 6 years to Damon Short to get this recording out. In itself, this is a tribute to the drummer’s persistence and unabated will to present his music even if commercial success and proper recognition have been eluding him—even in Chicago.

Despite Short’s uncompromising resolve, Go Figure remains relatively accessible. Of course, it will take time to truly appreciate the wealth of the compositions, which strike a balance between tuneful ensemble playing and unbridled soloing.

For this session, Short convened some Chicago regulars—Ryan Shultz, Larry Kohut, and Chuck Burdelik—as well as some out-of-towners with whom Short had continuous, albeit sporadic, dealings—Paul Smoker, Paul Scea (pronounced see-ay) and Jim Yanda. But all are quite familiar with Short’s musical concepts, and this guarantees the cohesiveness of the project.

With a frontline comprised of Schultz, whose bass trumpet can also recall a trombone, Smoker, Scea and Burdelik, Damon Short has a wide palette of sounds at his disposal, and he knows how to fully take advantage of it. The impressive frontline is complemented by Jim Yanda, who has developed a personal sound using an electrified acoustic guitar with nylon strings. Short’s arranging skills are displayed through unison passages and voicing which give the music an alluring majesty (“Gardens of Perception.”) Often, the band sounds like a larger ensemble—betraying Short’s admiration for Gene Krupa.

The wonderful and exciting dialogues that the musicians offer throughout produce some of the highlights of Go Figure. Scea’s flute and Smoker’s trumpet on “Old School,” and again, Smoker and Shultz’s bass trumpet on the bluesy “Anesthesiology.” “Flag Day,” in which the brass instruments are pitted against low-register reed voices (bass clarinet and baritone sax), results in a joyous chaos and a playful game of call and response. And, on the title-track, Jim Yanda and Ryan Schultz are taking turns leading and supporting each other with a rare complicity.

Without making any concession, Go Figure is another fine addition to the drummer’s catalogue. And, if it is not Damon Short’s finest outing to date, it is surely my favorite.

Available on NineWinds Records.

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