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Aaron Comess - Catskills Cry
Review by Daniel Heinze, SpinDoctors-Archive.com

Some Spin Doctors fans think they know the formula that defines the band's unique sound: While Chris Barron is considered to be "pop", Eric Schenkman stands for "rock", Mark White is "funk" and Aaron Comess is "jazz". This definition might work with the band Spin Doctors, but it definitely does not work properly if you look at the band member's solo projects. A good proof that you can't reduce any of the band members to a single musical style is Aaron Comess' debut solo album, Catskills Cry.



What to expect from a drummer and producer who loves John Coltrane and Bill Frisell, who developed a unique trademark drum sound himself over the last 20 years, who is gigging around NYC every week with his various and rather special projects (he's playing in two or three jazz bands, he does freestyle improvisations with a human beat box guy, he’s supported up-and-coming songstresses such as Swati or Rachel Yamagata etc.). What to expect from a dedicated drummer who has a giant solo back catalogue full of jazzy, experimental stuff if a guy like that releases his first "real" solo album?

Right. You might expect a jazz album. And: you're wrong. Sure, Catskills Cry has its jazzy moments. But it is way more than "just another jazz recording". In fact, it'll blow you away as it's nothing like you expected it to be. We talk about an album full of songs. Wonderful melodies, dramatic turns, giant musical landscapes. Moments that will make you smile or feel free, moments that will make you groove. Catskills Cry is probably the most astonishing instrumental disc I've ever heard.

Aaron Comess recorded this collection of eleven self-penned originals along with Bill Dillon (of Joni Michell and Daniel Lanois fame) on guitar and bass player Toni Levin (who worked with John Lennon and Peter Gabriel before) in early 2006. The trio creates ethereal, surreal and breathtaking sounds that are influenced by some of Comess' favourite landscapes from Anguilla to Manhattan to the Catskill Mountains. Every track transports a different feeling, a different mood. But it's never getting boring or random, it's never just jamming, it's always well-structured, brilliantly produced music that takes all the listener's attention. It's magical, in a way.

Thank God, Aaron Comess avoided the one thing I was really afraid of when I heard he’s doing a solo album: you know, he's a fantastic drummer. Everyone knows that. And there would have been no need to make an album full of crazy drumming or something like that just to show how talented he is. Thank God, he did not record what I call a "musician's album". You know, one of those CDs that are utterly brilliant technically speaking, discs that are loved by other musicians because it's "so perfect". So technically perfect. You know, I'm talking about this Dream Theaterish music. Music made by genius musicians for an audience that consists of people who are considering themselves genius musicians. Music for people who care more about technical details than about melodies, feelings, ideas.

Catskills Cry isn't like that at all. It’s music for the people. For the masses. It’s for everyone who loves music, not for music freaks / nerds only. Because it's heartfelt. It's deep. One moment, it's uplifting. And it makes you think deeply about life the next moment. Sometimes it sounds as huge and giant as a good Radiohead song, few minutes later it's as intimate as cuddling with the one you love in your cozy bedroom. That's the way Comess, Dillon and Levin proof how talented they are. They don't need to do the big noodling and soloing just to show their “awesomeness”. They get all your attention by playing fragile, untypical, original and unique music.

So, how to file Catskills Cry in a record store if you had to? File under Spin Doctors? File under Jazz? File under Experimental? File under Rock? Somehow, it all seems to fit in a way. Then again, all these categories don't do justice to Catskills Cry. File under Aaron Comess. He's in a class of his own.

Aaron Comess - "Catskills Cry" will be released in fall 2006.

(c) 2006-07-03 SpinDoctors-Archive.com.
Photo by Paul LaRaia, used by permission.

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