Nobody plays the drums quite like Terry Bozzio. His eclectic, visually intoxicating style and his diverse influences — many stemming from his years playing with Frank Zappa — put Bozzio in a class all by himself. Which is why probably no other drummer on the planet (except maybe, maybe, Mike Terrana) would attempt to pull off what Bozzio fearlessly and flawlessly does on Chamber Works. On this captivating recording, Bozzio plays through five lengthy movements and a closing opus — all composed by him and performed with the 60-piece Metropole Orkest in The Netherlands, with conductor Dick Bakker. The music here premiered live in Amsterdam in October 2003, and the studio version was broadcast on Dutch radio. Now it makes its CD debut.
As expected, drums dominate. But unlike some unions of rock musicians and classical musicians, this one finds both Bozzio and orchestra — violins, violas, cellos, basses, flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones, French horns, trumpets, trombones, harp, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards and additional drummers and percussionists — playing slyly off of each other, making for an intoxicating listen.
The record opens quietly but then crescendos with Bozzio's cavernous performance on "Temenos," which should leave any serious progressive-rock fan giddy for more. Percussion, brass and wind instruments flirt in an ominous call-and-response tango before Bozzio lets loose with an artillery of drums and cymbals. "Hypnotic," on the other hand, is more of a traditional orchestral piece with film-score aspirations. Bozzio doesn't inject himself so aggressively into the arrangement as he does elsewhere on Chamber Works. "Untitled" could have been titled many intriguing names, as its battle-ready clashing cymbals and slow march segue into a high hat that threatens to explode, backed by the equally edgy orchestra. "Ibo" opens with a Bozzio drum solo before introducing rock elements and a squealing brass section. Think Zappa and Rush scoring a Steven Spielberg film.
The remaining two performances are just as thrilling, and the entire album is accented with tribal drumming that recalls Peter Gabriel's most primal solo material. Cheers to Steve Vai's label, Favored Nations, for bringing to the masses one of the most intriguing instrumental albums of 2005 — or of any year, for that matter.
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