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Graduate student, David Dominique, debuts avant-garde jazz album

Published: December 6, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.


Almost four years since he first came to Brandeis as a Ph.D. candidate student in Music Theory and Composition, David Dominique has written an impressive body of music, including works for our own Lydian String Quartet as well as a critically acclaimed experimental opera “Tongues Bloody Tongues.” His latest work, “Ritual,” is a debut album offering a powerhouse collection of innovative jazz.

Released Tuesday, Dec. 3, Dominique’s “Ritual” presents a thoughtful body of non-traditional jazz music. By his own admission, David Dominique doesn’t want to create music that’s ordinary. “I don’t want to make music or record an album that has been made by somebody else,” the Somerville composer said. Holding this philosophy close at hand, while drawing references from jazz legend Charles Mingus and minimalist composer Steve Reich, Dominique was inspired to create music that is “completely abstract.” What he was going for in this album is “a conversation between music that is completely anchored on pulse and meter, juxtaposed with another layer of sound that is completely untethered to that underlying pulse,” the Ph.D. candidate student said.
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With this aesthetic in mind, “Ritual” contains tunes that are highly original and equally dynamic. His pieces are provocative in composition, yet still retain the sharp bite and propulsive nature of exciting jazz music. At the same time, the album carries a strong link to indie and rock music.

Particularly displaying these themes are the first and second tracks, titled “Ritual 1” and “Big Boned’d Jim” respectively. The opening track perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the album with its raw riffs and energetic bursts of sound. The tempo picks up in “Big Boned’d Jim,” but much of the energy and aggressiveness of “Ritual” is carried through. The incorporation of the improvisation from the electric guitar is refreshing and adds a free-moving quality to the piece. In this piece, to create the “completely abstract” nature of the album, Dominique wanted the players to improvise only with sounds. Dominique wanted this to create an “unhinged, free and unworldly character. It’s referencing a certain type of emphatic energy,” the composer said. This is especially evident in the third track “Ritual 2.”

The sixth track of the album, “Golden Retriever,” has beautiful leading lines from the violin that created refreshing contrast to the unrestrained experimental sounds of the pieces that preceded it.

For Dominique, the similarities to indie music were not always intentional. “Some of it is conscious and some of it is just a result of everything that I listen to,” Dominique explains, “I listen to a wide range of things from rock and hip-hop and indie music and that makes its way into my music.” It’s not surprising that in addition to courses in the music department, the young graduate student also teaches a University Writing Seminar Course, called “What is Indie Rock?”

“Ritual” presents a wide range of memorable tracks is that is sure to garner the attention of any jazz enthusiasts or someone looking for new music to listen to. The assimilation of rock, indie and past jazz styles with the layered combination of original composition and experimental sound makes for “Ritual” as an album that is thought-provoking, curious and worthwhile to play.

The avant-garde sound of Dominique’s “Ritual” is available on his Bandcamp website as well as iTunes and Amazon.