GEOFFREY BRADY – FOB
(2006 Giant Clam Records)
I like music that is different and artists who make me think. Geoff Brady’s first solo album is very different and really had me thinking, so much so I had to consult a dictionary. For instance, the first track is titled “Dollars to Doinas” so, naturally, I had to find out what doinas are. Turns out that it refers to “a Romanian musical tune style, having its roots in the music-laments of the Romanian shepherds (Vlachs).
It can be found in Romanian music, as well as in klezmer music. Doina is poetic and often melancholic, sometimes compared to the blues for that reason. Doinas are often played with a slow, free rhythm melody against a fast accompaniment pattern in fixed tempo, giving an overall feeling of rhythmic tension. Melodies are sometimes repeated in differing songs, and typically follow a descending pattern.” Okay, now the song makes more sense (thank you, dictionary.com). The title of the album also refers to either the small pocket in the front of a man’s vest that holds a watch or the chain attached to said watch; or it means to dispose of (goods) by fraud or deception. I’m pretty sure Brady is going for the latter meaning, although FOB has plenty of merit.
Brady is involved with several music ensembles, most of which play vastly different styles of music. Most notable are his association with the Gomers and the klezmer band Yid Vicious. He plays a variety of instruments but the focus of FOB is squarely on the vibraphone.
Brady is no doubt influenced by Gary Burton who pioneered the four-mallet technique. I’m no expert on vibraphones but it does seem that Brady employs this technique. There may be other influences such as Karl Berger and Bobbie Hutcherson, both noted for their ventures into early free-form jazz. But my guess is that Brady has absorbed a fair amount of Pierre Moerlin’s Gong along the way and, like every good Gomer, a bunch of Zappa.
Nine of the twelve tracks on FOB are solo, or nearly solo vibe pieces, more like free-form jazz improvisations. My favorite of these is “Fly, Giant Robot, Fly!” for its fluid passages. The first two vibe pieces conjure up visions of lying in a hammock while wind chimes coo in the breeze. It’s an enchanting aural experience and the way the soundwaves pulsate is extremely relaxing, even if there is an abundance of dissonance.
Three of the tracks use other instruments, namely keyboards, percussion and theremin to create an exotic combination. “Amaze at the Plant Hypnotist” is like hearing a carnival in a nightmare. Very Tom Waits-ian, this would make a good theme for one of Tim Burton’s movies or good background music on the Further bus. By far the most intriguing ensemble track is the seven-minute “Blaze On, Idiot Sun, Blaze On!” This is where Brady sounds like Gong, his distorted theremin resembling the spacey electric guitar work of David Torn or Terje Rypdal and, later in the track, a violin. “She Who Would Lie on a Bed of Crumbs” closes the disc out with a twisted funeral-march arrangement to a familiar triplet theme accompanied by what sounds like drumsticks on the hi-hat cymbal bells.
FOB is a definite delicacy from one of our most understated musical masters. And you’ve got to love a guy who puts a picture of his cat on the cover, one who apparently enjoys wearing neckties.