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 Tuesday, 01 December 2015
Thought Versus Emotion: Plenty of Both on Frankhouse Release PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Tuesday, 09 June 2009


The Twins Cities jazz scene boasts some very fine brass ensembles. There’s Snowblind, the CC Septet, Jack Brass, Hornheads, X-Tet, and now Frankhouse. Led by trumpeter Dan Frankowski, this quintet has released its debut recording, Thought Versus Emotion. And don’t let that title fool you, there’s plenty of thought and emotion throughout these sixteen tracks.

Frankhouse brings together five top-notch musicians, each with an impressive resume. In addition to Frankowski, the band includes tenor saxophonist Shilad Sen, guitarist Karl Koopman, bassist Graydon Peterson and drummer Dave Stanoch. Dan Frankowski is a graduate of the jazz cauldron at Minneapolis South High School, a former student of Denny Malmberg and alum of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies program. Moving on to Oberlin College, he studied with Donald Byrd, Kenny Davis, Jack Wilkins and Wendall Logan. Back at the U of M, he studied with Ron McCurdy, while master classes included trumpet stars Terell Stafford and Wynton Marsalis. In addition to soloing in a touring production of “A Harlem Nutcracker,” his credits have included the Nova Jazz Orchestra, Twin Cities Jazz Orchestra, John Ahern Big Band, Cedar Avenue Big Band, Steeling Dan (a 13-piece Steely Dan tribute band), and the large version of Terramara, an original pop band. Dan has also played and recorded his compositions with the Minnesota Postsecondary Jazz Sextet (postbop), the Dynamic Duo (guitar and trumpet), and anton and dan (an experimental horn duo).

Karl Koopmann studied with guitarist Kevin Daley, composer Janika Vandervelde and jazz pianist/musicologist Richard Paske at the Perpich Center for Arts Education, where he became immersed in jazz, classical and world music. At Minnesota State University Moorhead, he majored in jazz performance, studying with Glenn Ginn. Locally his credits include work with Terramara, Steeling Dan, Story City (a jazz-fusion project highlighting the compositions of Pat Metheny and Michael Brecker), Starting Point (a jazz-fusion band in the Yellowjackets/GRP vein); Yawo (an Afro-funk world beat band) and Tardiss (an electronic/computer-generated music duo).

Shilad Sen studied with world-renowned classical saxophonist Dr. Frederick L. Hemke at Northwestern University and placed second in the 1996 North American Saxophone Alliance Collegiate Jazz Competition. Shilad has played with Danilo Perez, Ron Blake, Rufus Reid, Phil Hey, Dennis Diblasio, George Fludas, and Ron Perillo. Locally he plays with Snowblind and Ingo Bethke, and teaches computer science at Macalester College.

Graydon Peterson completed his bachelor's degree in music composition at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire where he studied classical bass with James Clute and was a member of the Down Beat award-winning UWEC Jazz Ensemble I. As a student he performed with such guest jazz artists as Lewis Nash, Ingrid Jensen, Jason Marsalis, Chris Botti, and Christian McBride. These days Graydon is a first-call bassist for vocalists such as Christine Rosholt, Debbie Duncan and Connie Evingson, as well as for many of the area’s top instrumental ensembles. A fixture at the annual Twin Cities Hot Summer Jazz Festival, Graydon appears as performer and composer on the recent release, Reflections, with the Reid Kennedy Trio.

Dave Stanoch has performed with diverse artists including Richard Davis, Keb'Mo', Bernard Purdie, Bonnie Raitt, Ben Sidran, Timbuk3 and Butch Vig, among many others. He studied with drum masters Max Roach, Alan Dawson, Jeff Hamilton, Ignacio Berroa, Chad Wackerman and Marv Dahlstrom. A faculty member at the McNally Smith College of Music, Dave is a contributing author to Modern Drummer magazine and released his acclaimed first method book, Mastering the Tables of Time in 2008. Dave plays with the trio Triplicate and the avant Ellen Lease/Pat Moriarty Quintet.

ImageIn his promo materials for Thought Versus Emotion, Dan Frankowski states that "We're supposed to convince you we're geniuses, but Midwestern modesty prevents this. We have been practicing and playing for years. Our beliefs: jazz does not stop at swing; simple can be good; fear not the electric guitar; there are only two kinds of music: good and bad.” Fortunately, Thought Versus Emotion is easily classified as the former. The music generally moves in a modern swinging fashion; “simplicity” is often an illusion; and Karl Koopman is more likely to excite than terrorize with his electric ax. Frankowski goes on to describe the sixteen tracks (including covers of Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell; a composition from local colleague/drummer Kevin Washington; a contribution from Koopman, and the remaining dozen tunes from Frankowski) as “ranging from rollicking to thoughtful, soulful to experimental.”

Some tunes seem to easily fall into one of these four modes: The opening “Ambulatory” is the most “rollicking,” percussive and brassy with a heavy line from guitar and bass, a bit like a salsa line over a funk groove. “Karl’s Karma” is Koopman’s playground with ample activity from a musical alter ego, Graydon Peterson, while the horns also get their turn to spark and spin. “Breckish” has rollicking moments while soulfully rhythmic, sporting a strong repeating theme that Peterson carries throughout as the horns soar.

To some degree, “soulful” describes much of the recording, perhaps best exemplified by the cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” The infectious, funky vamp is maintained throughout by bassist Peterson, while Shilad Sen takes the melodic lead. The ensemble work and brass harmonies suggest a much bigger band than quintet. “Folly” integrates a funk beat with a more European-edged approach to melody and harmony; Peterson solos in a balladic post bop vein while chords from Koopman and Stanoch’s syncopation keep it light and danceable. Here Frankowski bridges all with his soulful and clearly articulated lines. “Don’t” conjures a “Monk Meets the Addams Family” vibe as Sen presents a master class in syncopated gymnastics. Karl Koopman’s sound effects seem perfect for a soundtrack to some weird but wonderful adventure tale. Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” might be described as thoughtfully soulful, with its underlying groove courtesy of Dave Stanoch and Graydon Peterson and its indie folk melodicism.

Many of these compositions and arrangements can be described as “thoughtful,” not overly cerebral but elegantly and patiently constructed. “Enough” is majestic, suggestive of a Canadian Brass post bop interlude with lush flugelhorn from leader/composer Frankowski. On “Eric’s Enlightenment,” the casual elegance of Frankowski’s trumpet is mirrored by Koopman’s guitar. As familiar as I am with Kevin Washington as a drummer, “Three Days” might be the first of his compositions I’ve encountered. (More please!) Each musician provides his ounce of glow, from lyrical turns by Sen and Frankowski to the supporting mesh of Stanoch, Peterson and Koopman. Sen and Peterson exhibit a particularly exquisite melancholy. Some of the most luscious harmonies of the set are presented on “Encantadora,” not only from the pair of horns but also from the placement of chords and tones from the strings.

To label any of these tracks as “experimental” might suggest formless discord, odd time or instrumentation. Yet the ensemble does take more liberties, sets forth in a more exploratory direction on several compositions. “By the Way” launches slowly, the two horns providing lovely off-kilter harmonies while Stanoch’s “energizer bunny” pulse maintains a background of splashy buzz. “Chasin’ the Blues” opens with a burst from Stanoch and clattering horns, followed by a gleeful run from Peterson and some sinister lines from the bottom of Sen’s tenor. “Far From Romance” features explorations from Frankowski and Koopman that are not all that far from a romantic (if wistful ) tone), again supported unobtrusively by Stanoch and Peterson. Koopman’s “Old Aged” begins as a string reverie, yielding to Sen’s probing tenor, then flugelhorn before returning control to the composer. Frankhouse’s “Purpleheart” begins with some hefty deep drum beats from Stanoch, and throughout his percussion drives the band, steers the ship, and fills with surprise. Graydon Peterson adds a final verse of bass affirmation.

There seems to be a bonus 17th track, a few minutes of all of the above, as if a closing statement for each musician.

Surely considerable “thought and emotion” went into each composition, each note. This recording provides a welcome opportunity to enjoy established artists in a new configuration, and to hear some “soulful” and “thoughtful” new music.

CD available at CD Baby - or from iTunes or Amazon.

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