AMN Reviews: David Dominique – Mask (2018; Orenda Records)

When we interviewed David Dominique in late 2013, he indicated the desire for his next album release to be out by the end of 2014. But Dominique is a busy guy as a composer and academic (currently, he is a music professor at William and Mary). He also moved across the U.S. twice in this time frame, and has had his personal life disrupted by family-oriented adversities. So Mask is a little later than expected. And to use a cliche, it is well worth the wait.

In addition to Dominique’s brass contributions, Mask features Brian Walsh on sax and clarinet, Joe Santa Maria on sax and flute, Sam Robles also on sax, Lauren Baba on viola, Alexander Noice on guitar and electronics, Michael Alvidrez on bass, and Andrew Lessman on drums and percussion. While instrumental, the album includes some vocalizing, skat singing in particular.

Dominique’s compositional style is quite varied, spanning jazz, rock, and modern classical. But his major influence, Charles Mingus, can be heard in Mask‘s idiosyncratic swing motifs and start-stop stylings.  Similarities to early Frank Zappa have also crept into the album.  Although Dominique is aware of Zappa and is a fan of the latter’s 1970/71 period, the influence is not overt.  Nonetheless, Dominique’s effortless and complex themes involving a mid-sized brass section harken back to Waka / Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo. To Dave Treut is an example thereof.

The sense of playfulness that pops up from time to time is also reminiscent of Zappa. The Yawpee is a joyful romp with intricate lines. Yet, this is juxtaposed with Dominique’s expressions of personal loss.  For instance, Grief is a track with a thick walking melody and poignant wordless singing that fits the title.

In sum, Mask covers a broad swathe of musical and emotional territory that goes beyond your run of the mill classically-influenced jazz/rock. And clocking in at just under 38 minutes, Dominique says what he has to say, then takes a bow.  The result?  A singular and compelling release.  Bravo.

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