Great musicians have been doing their own take on the blues since the form was created, and now Bruce Arnold joins their company with Art of the Blues. Arnold has exhibited astonishing versatility with his various projects, tackling pieces as disparate as Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” and Native American chants. He is best known however, for his explorations into the application of 12-tone theory in jazz improvisation. Arnold here applies a similar intellectual rigor to the 12 tracks that are by turns lyrical, spare, haunting and always intriguing.
As Bruce explains it: “ In Art of the Blues I have applied the structural rhythmic and harmonic ideas that I have been working with over the past several years to the blues form. These structures deal with small three note groups and the superimposition of time fields over a basic pulse. I’ve used the unit of a half step and a minor 3rd as my motif, and composed twelve blues, one in each key. You’ll also hear some fun with time signatures and the use of a dotted quarter note as a vehicle for multiple time layering.
Joining Bruce on this bracing set and negotiating the tricks and turns are stalwarts Tony Moreno on drums and Dean Johnson on upright bass. Mr. Moreno is featured on almost every tune;his stellar drum solos are filled with layered time improvisations and endless creativity. “It was a conscious decision on my part to feature Tony on all these tunes” says Bruce “I wanted to showcase the many types of time manipulations that we have been exploring over the past few years.” Time juxtapositions abound, with a G Blues 30 bar in ¾ in with 5 measure phrases, a D Blues 18 bar form in 5/4, an A Blues 15 bar form in 7/4, an E Blues 12 Bar form in 9/4, and a B Blues 24 Bar form in 4/4.
And although Bruce’s composition is forward thinking, his chordal accompaniment style throughout Art of the Blues conscientiously harkens back to the roots of Rhythm and Blues guitar. All these elements combine to create a collection of tunes that while sounding like a traditional jazz guitar CD also presents a personal new approach and direction for the blues.
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