The Daniel Bennett Group
Clockhead Goes to Camp (Manhattan Daylight Media Group)
By Brian Arsenault
When Clockhead Goes to Camp this summer, you should go with him. Like summer, this album is irrepressible.
I was reminded recently that Charles Mingus said “Making the simple awesomely simple . . . That’s creativity.“ The Daniel Bennett Group takes us to a whimsical place where the simplicity and sensibility of children has not been lost. Rather, it has been found in this music.
I will soon be giving this album to a near one-year-old not because it is a children’s album — I generally hate the sing songy drek that is passed off as kids’ music — but because it is beautiful enough to delight a child. Or the child in you.
Oh yeah, the song titles. They’re all like that: the title song, “An Elephant Buys a New Car,” “The Old Muskrat Welcomes Us,” even a scary one — “Cabin 12 Escapes into the Night.“
In fact, I was so pleased — nay, delighted — by the album’s whimsy that it wasn’t until the fourth track, “Dr. Duck’s Beautiful New Kitchen” that I went, hey, this is a jazz album. And that it is.
The title song is a remarkable piece full of nuance. Bennett is as adept on flute and clarinet as he is on alto saxophone. On this tune, you may not always know where the instrument changes occur. At least I wasn’t.
Tyson Stubelek’s percussion work is outstanding throughout; rhythmic from here to Brazil and on to Africa. Peter Brendler is one of those bassists whose playing you aren’t constantly aware of because he lays it so naturally underneath; self effacing for the player but deeply satisfying for the listener.
What I have to say about guitarist Mark Cocheo can’t be separated from Bennett, not because he isn’t excellent in his own right but because the two seem like brothers musically, picking up from each other seamlessly.
Two great examples of that connection come on “Whatever it Might Be” — with an imbedded poem by Rimas Uzgiris that is hardly childlike — and “Paint the Fence.”
On “Paint the Fence,” the acoustic guitar and flute are partnered, not simply played together. On this loveliest piece of the album you may envision Tom Sawyer on a great spring morning carrying the paint pail he intends someone else to labor with.
Bennett’s flute on “Nine Piglets” is like a warm breeze through the trees. Cocheo’s guitar smoothly picks up the freedom of the melody.
“Sandpaper is Necessary” (more great song titling), gives us Bennett playing his sax alone. But he’s not really alone. His notes dance along as Charlie Parker might have played them. Bennett has listened to them all — Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins come to mind as well as Bird. I flatter myself that I recognize a tribute to them all in the fleeting two and a half minutes here.
On “John Lizard and Mr. Pug” near the end of the CD, we return to the gentleness of the opening songs as Cocheo’s guitar counterpoints Bennett’s alto saxophone. Lizard and Pug walk down a country lane. I wonder if “Pressed Rat and Warthog” were ever this happy.
The “Ten Piglets” and Coceho’s guitar lead us out of the album‘s magic. Regretfully. A bit like leaving childhood, at least if your childhood included lots of very fine music.
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