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Monsoon by Scott DuBois Quintet

The Scott Dubois Quintet debut recording Monsoon is consistently irreverent in relation to mainstream jazz ideals - maybe self-consciously so. It’s an unwieldy mix of vamps, ostinatos, odd time figures, world influences, fragmentary melodies, and free blowing. There is almost no swing; no standard style changes; and certainly no blues. Dubois is the guitarist/composer of the group, giving us his first offering as a leader and it’s a pretty clear vision, if not entirely successful. All 10 compositions are his and he plays both nylon string acoustic and electric guitars. He’s joined by his regular bandmates: Loren Stillman, Jason Rigby, Thomas Morgan, and Mark Ferber. On four of the tracks Rigby is replaced by David Liebman who was one of Dubois’ professors at Manhattan School of Music. All of these supporting players have full command of their instruments and play convincingly over the regularly challenging material. Stillman and Morgan are particular standouts. Both of these young men are extremely accomplished for their age, already having achieved individual voices and great tone. They both play regularly in many of the more intriguing ensembles throughout NYC.

The opening track, "Lost Silence", is based on an ostinato in shifting, odd meters. It’s a challenging, interesting figure, but cannot sustain interest for over 8 minutes. Much of the music on Monsoon is hurt by the same effect. The melodic theme of the piece enters about halfway through and is a very short statement. Dubois has a knack for writing catchy, fragmentary melodic excerpts. But they sound that way - like excerpts. Many of these tunes would be well served if more work was put into the themes/melodies. You can tell from listening that Dubois very well may have the ability to write longer more thoroughly thought out ideas, but chooses to leave them shorter. The fragments we get are interesting, but by leaving them so short, and with nothing else to hang onto but the repeating ostinatos and pedals, he’s shooting himself in the foot.

Much of Dubois’ playing follows suit. His playing comes in spurts. Instead of following an idea to a logical conclusion (and he’s got lots of ideas), he starts and stops. Occasionally his ideas are interesting enough to be satisfying on their own, but often it’s frustrating to hear him leave something behind that could’ve gone to an interesting place. This may be an intentional style, but it feels like growing pains.

It sounds like Dubois is trying very hard to not sound like any other guitarists - and he’s doing well on that score. There are moments here and there where I catch a moment of Ralph Towner’s influence or maybe even an early Coryell. Letting these influences into the fray a little more may be a good thing for Dubois as there is no other way to full incorporate them. However, in terms of both playing and writing, Dubois is a promising artist. I’ll be watching him grow.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Scott DuBois Quintet
  • CD Title: Monsoon
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Soul Note
  • Musicians: Scott DuBois (guitars), Loren Stillman (sax), Jason Rigby (sax), Thomas Morgan (bass), Mark Ferber (drums), featuring Dave Liebman (sax, indian flute)
  • Rating: Two Stars
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