Dennis Gonzalez YAE Trio
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Dennis Gonzalez YAE Trio

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE

Dallas, Texas, United States | INDIE
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To anyone who has witnessed trumpeter Dennis González and his sons Aaron (bass) and Stefan (drums) play in Dallas as new-jazz trio Yells at Eels, the name of this album will come off as a bit audacious—and yet completely appropriate.

Scant crowds at local house or club performances generally fall short of "concert" size. "Great," though? If anything, that's underselling it.

This album, recorded live last year in Poland, showcases how naturally the outfit improvises even with a guest, in this case Portuguese tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado (who plays with the brothers in Humanization 4tet). The band will wander from the theme of a tune on a playful tangent, then snap back precisely on track as if the delightful distraction never happened. Dennis lets his sons shine here as both composers and instrumentalists, with Stefan's hypnotic, tom-heavy "Crow Soul" opening the set followed (after a respectful yet fun take on Ornette Coleman's "Happy House") by Aaron's alternately meditative and frantic "Joining Pleasure With Useful." The act later pays homage to its host country with Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda's mournful "Litania," and then gets in a goofy dig at the city's name (pronounced something like "bid-gosh") with the title of their final improv: "Oszkosz Bydgoszcz." Osh Kosh Bydgoszcz. Get it?

The jokes may be no better than when they named the band hoke-speak for "yes it is" 10 years ago. But you can't say the same for the musicianship.

Comments:

added pizzazz fan club 06/24/2010 9:09:03 AM
"Scant crowds"? We've seen YAE play in front of hundreds of people here in Austin, in Denton, and in Dallas...I must admit, they are dynamic in concert!

Byrd 11/17/2009 7:10:27 PM
saw them play at Kettle Art... nothing short of amazing

- Dallas Observer, Dallas, Texas


Otra noche mágica la que viví ayer en la Sala Club de jazz Clamores, en pleno barrio de Chamberí. Su dueño Germán es un tipo estupendo y muy peculiar. En el mundo del jazz se conoce a gente muy especial. Y a cada uno hay que tomarlo como es. Si en la ‘vida real’ a veces me siento extraña, en el mundillo del jazz eso no me ocurre nunca. Al contrario, me encuentro en mi salsa y muy a gusto. Será porque todos son más raros que yo.

¿Qué quién es Dennis González? Es un músico, trompetista, compositor, artista visual, locutor, escritor, educador, lingüista, y viajero del mundo, y ha vivido en Dallas durante los últimos 33 años. Ha grabado más de 30 cds como líder. Dennis habla 6 idiomas. Qué envidia sana me da Dennis. Y para saber mucho más de él pincha aquí.

Anoche fue uno de los mejores conciertos que he escuchado últimamente. Por cierto, no había ni un sólo fotógrafo, al final llegó uno, y nadie de prensa. Tuve la competencia de los aficionados, ahora todos van con sus cámaras digitales y todos quieren hacer sus fotos. Eso sí, mi cámara era la más grande. Estuvimos en familia.

En próximas entradas pondré más fotos del concierto. Fotos de sus dos hijos, Aaron al contrabajo y Stefan a la batería, y de Rodrigo Amado al saxo tenor.
- Esther Cidoncha Jazz Photography Blog, Madrid, Spain


An unspoken rule of music journalism is that you never ask how a band got its name. It's just assumed that band monikers are meant to be catchy and nonsensical, fraught with unfathomably private symbolism, or so obvious that only an idiot would inquire about their provenance. Besides, nobody really cares whether a band is called Donna the Buffalo or Army of Prawns: all that really matters is the music.

That's the party line, anyway. But sometimes it's necessary to break from tradition--as when it came time to interview Dennis Gonzalez, whose trio opens Rime, a new Commercial Drive eatery and music venue, on Sunday and Monday (December 26 and 27). (Guests include French horn virtuoso Mark Taylor both nights, plus pianist Paul Plimley on Sunday and cellist Peggy Lee on Monday.) The trumpeter's band includes his sons Aaron and Stefan on bass and drums, respectively, and it's called Yells at Eels, which naturally invites a certain degree of speculation.

Is Gonzalez a devotee of the ancient art of sniggling? Are the Eels his kids? Is he a marine biologist manqué?

But when the veteran musician calls from his home in Dallas, Texas, his explanation is short and sweet: he simply sings a couple of lines from R&B producer Jerry Ragovoy's classic ballad, "Time Is on My Side".

"Ti-i-i-ime is on my side," he wails, in a passable imitation of Mick Jagger. "Yells at eels..."

"It's actually based on ebonics," he adds. "That's how an African-American would say 'Yes it is,' and because I played with a lot of black bands in the '80s and the early '90s, sometimes I find myself using a lot of these phrases. Like, in Mississippi they would say 'Ain't nothin' but a thang.' And you might ask 'Well, what does that mean?' but you'd just have to feel it. I couldn't give you a definition for it. And it's the same thing with 'yells at eels'. It's like a shout of joy, you know."

I've been walking around the house singing "Time is on my side/yells at eels" ever since. I've also been listening to a lot of Gonzalez's music, and it's clear that although the Mexican-American multi-instrumentalist is a relative unknown, he's a major talent. His Web site [ www.dennisgonzalez.com/ ] lists a couple of dozen CDs issued under his own name and in collaboration with a diverse cast of international artists, and the four I've heard have been consistently remarkable. Gonzalez manages to write challenging, creative music that is also infused with an immense amount of warmth and joy--qualities he attributes to his early upbringing in the Southern Baptist church.

"Even though the services were in Spanish, we sang all these old hymns that came from Negro spirituals and from field hollers and things like that," he explains. "They had a deep sadness in them, but on top of everything there was also a sense of resolve--like 'Okay, we're here and we may have difficult times, but we're continually blessed and there's always something look forward to.'"

Gonzales is as deeply rooted in the jazz tradition as he is in the Baptist church. His various recordings contain hymns of praise to such icons as Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Lester Bowie, and Julius Hemphill, in which he mixes gospel phraseology with passages derived from the musicians he eulogizes.

"There's an old Southern Baptist hymn that was originally called 'Holy Manna'," he says. "The idea being that if you have faith, you'll never be left destitute. Its melody sounds almost like a Chinese folk tune--it's pentatonic, it has five notes--and it's very, very adaptable to all these different feelings that I'm putting together. So I have what I call the hymn cycle: I've written between 25 and 30 of these, and they use the same melody but with different rhythmic or ethnic input. Different feelings, I guess, that somehow to me describe these heroes of mine."

At the moment, though, Gonzalez's main heroes are his Yells at Eels bandmates, who also perform in the thrash duo Akkolyte. "I was like 'Dear lord, don't let 'em be musicians; it's too hard a life,'" he says of the obviously gifted Aaron and Stefan. "But when you're around all these really fabulous musicians and you think of them as like your older brothers or something, it's catching.

"I had kind of gotten out of the jazz scene in the early '90s," he continues, "and when I came out of that little funk they were playing in a hardcore duo. It was difficult listening for a man my age, but I just let them do it--and then one day they said, 'You know, some of the stuff we play really reminds us of the stuff you did. Why don't we form a trio?'"

He laughs, clearly happy with the way things have turned out. "They're quite a gift." And as post-Christmas presents go, Yells at Eels' Vancouver debut is also sure to be a treat.

- The Georgia Straight, Vancouver, B.C.


The festival ended with trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez’s Yells at Eels, featuring Oliver Lake and Dennis’s sons Aaron on bass and Stefan on drums. Their set started at 1.45 am – nearly two hours late – but Gonzalez's warm soothing tone and Lake’s superb playing made the late hour bearable and brought the festival to a very welcome close.
The Vision Festival can tend to lend itself to parody as the true believers in the audience show up each year with expanded waistlines and holes in their graying manes – a movie mockumentary such as "A Mighty Wind" which concentrated on the free jazz movement would confuse rather than entertain – but it still serves as an effective forum for the continued development of a music that never had a large number of adherents and is increasingly marginalized. The high points greatly outweighed the few unsatisfying performances, and the post-concert camraderie between Parker, Mateen, Shipp and Bennink was genuine and heartfelt. And where else can I shake hands with Kidd Jordan and wish Dennis Gonzalez a happy Father's Day? - Paris Transatlantic Magazine, Paris, France


Discography

Home - 2000 - daagnimRecords (US)
Pictogram - 2002 - daagnimRecords (US)
Home Away From Home - 2002 - daagnimRecords (US)
Geografia - 2006 -Inner Realms Outer Realms Records (US)
The Great Bydgoszcz Concert - 2009 - Ayler Records (France)
Cape of Storms - 2010 - Ayler Records (France)

Photos

Bio

Dennis Gonzalez’s incredible career, spanning 30 years, began with a stint with two legends of Jazz, drummer Max Roach and pianist Cecil Taylor. At that time, the renown Swedish jazz label Silkheart Records decided to document his early forays as a leader, and the incredible music that emerged under his leadership, with Malachi Favors, Oliver Lake, Andrew Cyrille, Charles Brackeen, Henry Grimes, Frank Lowe, Kidd Jordan, Fred Hopkins, and many others as his sidemen, led to his international recognition.

In the early 90’s he stopped playing for 5 years to get closer to his family and to find a new direction in his music. What emerged in 1999 was a new sound and a new determination to excel in jazz, from his home base in Dallas. He started a new trio (then called Yells At Eels) with his sons, bass player Aaron Gonzalez and drummer/vibraphonist Stefan Gonzalez, and began a new series of performances and recordings, being picked up by Portugal’s Clean Feed Records and the Franco-Swedish company Ayler Records. YAE Trio’s recent collaborations with vocalist Leena Conquest, South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, and the Art Ensemble’s percussionist Famoudou Don Moyé have been particularly fruitful. Dennis's own duo with Portuguese pianist João Paulo won the Portuguese “Grammy” for best record in 2009 from the Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores.

YAE TRIO
The trio has played festivals and concerts all over the US and in Portugal, Spain, Poland, Mexico, and Canada.They have recorded 6 CD's for American and European companies.