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Brad Dutz — Oktet
(Bandcamp Right Brain Records, 2022, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-11-21

Oktet Cover art

Even if you’re not familiar with his name, it’s fairly likely you’ve heard percussionist Brad Dutz playing on something. His 300-plus recording credits are largely concentrated in jazz (Nels Cline, Jeff Berlin, Scott Henderson, Vinnie Golia, Mitchell Forman, Adam Rudolph) but involve artists in all sorts of other areas (Rickie Lee Jones, Leo Kottke, Tom Petty, Terence Trent D’Arby, Maria Muldaur, Alanis Morrisette, Willie Nelson, Motor Totemist Guild, Kevin Ayers), including movie soundtracks. With such a varied background, it should come as no surprise that as a composer and leader, Dutz is not a genre purist in any sense. While the music on Oktet can probably safely be labeled jazz (for those who are concerned with labels), it is far from mainstream jazz, and in fact doesn’t really fit into any of the recognized streams within jazz. I first encountered Dutz as a leader when I attended the concert in Seattle that functioned more or less as the release party for this album, and while not all of the original players were available, the live group tackled this challenging music quite successfully. The instrumentation features three woodwinds (generally flute, clarinet, and saxophone, though which type of each varies), two brass (trumpet and French horn), plus a rhythm section of double bass, drum kit, and percussion (which includes a huge variety of instruments, from vibes and steel drums to all sorts of shakers and hand drums). One of the primary characteristics of the compositions here is the almost complete lack of ensemble playing — each of the instruments has its own independent part, and they fit together to form a kind of aggregate that is akin to 20th Century chamber music (Heitor Villa-Lobos comes to mind). Listeners familiar with RIO groups might experience this as a jazzy variation on the style. However you categorize it, the music is sophisticated, idiosyncratic, ever-changing, and entertaining. While the tonalities are far from predictable, there’s not a lot of dissonance — and notes go by so quickly that it never dominates. Dutz is also really fond of meters involving sevens. The track titles (“Oleta Overcomes the Ongoing Onslaught of Being the Obese Outcast,” “Otto Observed the Octopus Occult Origin,” “Olivia's Occupation Offers the Option of Ogden or Ottowa in October,” and so on) correspond with the overall lightness of mood which comes from the lack of electric instruments. Oktet is a fascinating album that should appeal to listeners across a wide spectrum.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Brad Dutz

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