The Strato Ensemble — Drawn Straws
(no#, 2007, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2008-01-01Hovering somewhere between jazz-rock fusion and explorative electronic sounds, this group of improvisors is led by keyboardist Dean De Benedictis, who has already received great reviews in our pages as Surface 10 and with his ambient electronic based releases on the Spotted Peccary Label. On these nine expansive workouts, the Strato Ensemble involves anywhere from two to four musicians, track depending, including bassist Guiseppe Patane (Matta Haari), drummer "Jako" Giakomini (Socadia) and guitarist Takeshi Nishimoto (I'm Not A Gun), with occasional participation from saxophonist Jim Goetch. The opening sidelong salvo "Empowering Gamesake" covers everything from subtle ambient swells to high-intensity group pyrotechnics, going through numerous cycles along the way giving each player plenty of stretching room, but it also shows the spirited improvisational telepathics of the full ensemble. There is no doubt, by the time one reaches the 24 minute mark, that you've wrapped your ears around something very special. That one track alone is worth more than the price of admission, but the creative juices continue to flow freely for nearly another hour, sometimes in similar lengthy spellbinding sorties, other times in shorter vignettes involving subsets of the full group. Fans of 70s Crimson in improvisational mode, early Weather Report, and pure improv groups like Cloud Chamber would do well to check out Drawn Straws.
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