Photo by Leah Meyerhoff
Bob Burnett: 2010 has started off well thanks to Ben Perowsky. Esopus Opus and El Destructo Vol. II: Moodswing Orchestra to be exact. Two vastly different outings offering the same result: delightful listening pleasure.
Ben Perowsky is a drummer who in addition to fronting his own groups has found time for a diversity of recording sessions over the years in jazz, R&B, pop/rock, experimental with people such as James Moody, Rickie Lee Jones, Roy Ayers, Miles Davis alums, Dave Douglas and The Lounge Lizards. Let's take on Esopus Opus first: it's a Ben Perowsky Quartet release featuring in addition to Ben on drums, Chris Speed (clarinet/tenor--various Tzadik albums), Ted Reichman (accordion/piano--I have him in a duet release with Anthony Braxton) and Drew Gress. (bass--also on John Surman's Brewster's Rooster reviewed earlier this month) In conjunction with terrific original material the quartet covers The Beatles Flying as well as Within/Without You. Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression also gets a rework as does Hermeto Pascoal's Nem Um Talvez. There's an exuberance in play here that is captivating for rock listeners as well as "out" jazz people. The playing is tight, open and incredibly well recorded at Brooklyn Recording by Andy Taub. Perowsky's drums have "color", vibrancy and drive--always pushing the music ahead. I'm fondly reminded of a number of releases--Charlie Haden's Ballad of the Fallen, any number of Paul Motian's albums, Bill Frisell's Have A Little Faith come to mind off the top of my head.
The other album is El Destructo Volume II: Moodswing Orchestra, an effort that features a wide range of vocalists/groups (Joan As A Policewoman, Elysian Fields and Bebel Gilberto, for example) as well as an array of NYC's incredible musicians. Moodswing Orchestra is more ethereal and dub soundscape-like than the Quartet. I'm reminded of Hal Wilner-produced projects such as the Mingus tribute Weird Nightmare. There's a wide range of sonics--Perowsky's drums along with woodwinds, trumpets, bass, sound effects, snap-crackling vinyl, theremin, tuba and "air". Moodswing Orchestra is an album that makes me wish I was still on the radio someplace; I'd just put it on and watch the curious calls come in. As a matter of fact, my 13 year old was just lying on the bed next to where I was typing while listening to Moodswing. Now I hear her upstairs playing her drum kit.
I can only hope a young Ben Perowsky is in the making.