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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Art of the Blues

MSK 157



  1. Cat Feet
  2. Castles
  3. Indifferent
  4. If Seven were Three
  5. In and Out
  6. Three and Fro
  7. Sassy
  8. Hocket
  9. Dark Matter
  10. Maze
  11. Inquisitive
  12. Down Home
Bruce Arnold (guitar); Dean Johnson (bass); Tony Moreno (drums)


If you were thinking of B.B. King or Muddy Waters, think again. This is an experimental take on the Blues employing 'structural, rhythmic and harmonic ideas' that guitarist Bruce Arnold has been working on for a number of years. The result is a strange assimilation of Kind of Blue cool with a repetitive, almost obsessional concern with patterns, patterning and textures that seems to me, in the long run, self-defeating.

Repeated guitar patterns behind which the drums become busier and busier are reprised again and again. It's all very well to vary key signatures throughout the twelve tracks but if the themes themselves are unmemorable, and if the patterns are predictable and unvarying, the whole exercise becomes ascetic, and resistible. There are only a few moments when the threesome break free of this academic straightjacket. There are some bluesy licks in If Seven were Three (the best track) where the bass shadows the guitar lines profitably and the drums freewheel flexibly behind them. But this isn't a true trio of equals, as the bass is too tied either to the guitar or its own subservient patterns to retain real independence.

There's no doubting the articulacy of Arnold's playing, but I'm afraid this is all too abstract and self-indulgent for enjoyable listening. Too much Art, and not enough Blues.

Jonathan Woolf

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