Recordings

Despite Dark's fondness for the scripted safety of funk, his schizoid soul led him to the "100% improv" Bar*B*Que Dali project. Core PB members Dark, Dred Scott (piano), Nate Pitts (bass), and Will Bernard (guitar) teamed up with Dark's former New England Conservatory schoolmate and internationally renowned clarinetist Don Byron, rented out Annie's Hall in Berkeley, and eventually whittled about nine hours of spontaneous material into a one-hour CD.

Those accustomed to PB's locked-in structures are in for a surprise. First off, all of Bar*B*Que Dali's performers augment their principal playing with extended techniques on "prepared" instruments or through the use of a battery of electronic effects. And the occasional grooves are determinedly not of the danceable variety, but roomy, chunky, and clunky, not unlike the rhythm of falling backward down a massive spiral staircase. Ultimately, the songs tend to focus on kaleidoscopic sound portraits of constantly shifting tonal colors and textural juxtapositions, from delicate nuances to forceful crescendos. More than a nutritional supplement, it's Breakfast inbred.

The Bar*B*Que Dali record release party, featuring Don Byron, happens Thurs, April 18, at Cafe Du Nord; call 861-5016.

-- Sam Prestianni

Brainiac
Hissing Prigs in Static Couture
(Touch & Go)

Don't let the Coen brothers' film Fargo give you the impression anything actually happens in the Denver-to-Detroit, midcontinental void we call the American Midwest. Sure, somebody occasionally shoots up an Albertson's or seduces barnyard animals or makes slipcovers out of his family, but all in all, most residents' highlight is the annual VCR sale at Wal-Mart. Midwest joke: What did one tractor say to the other? Hold me closer, John Deere.

On its third release, the Dayton, Ohio, foursome Brainiac rails against this crippling flatlands ennui with jagged, high-octane p(f)unk that bolsters the boosters like a triple espresso snuck into your 7-Eleven coffee mug. While the band lurches along in the manner of a cranked-up Blues Explosion, frontman Timmy Taylor barks through a variety of processed vocal channels, cooing like Valentino in "Kiss Me You Jacked-Up Jerk" and screaming his lungs dry in "I Am a Cracked Machine." Taylor's anti-fascist rant in "Vincent Come on Down" -- "2-4-6-8/ Tell me who I'm s'posed to hate" -- segues nicely into "This Little Piggy" 's whispered lechery; "70 Kilogram Man" is a-a-almost a rap track (imagine Shellac backing Ween), and "Strung" punctuates a serial killer's lullaby with human screams. Lovely.

The Daytoners join a crop of bands (Jesus Lizard, Cows, Killdozer) who hail from Midwest cities (Chicago, Minneapolis, Madison) and feature an appealingly psychotic lead singer (David, Shannon, Michael) -- groups whose sole raison d'etre is to fuck your shit up. South by Southwest conference attendees verify that Brainiac is a great live act, its show a hilarious blend of pyrotechnics and kinetics and as twisted as a licorice rope. But until Brainiac blows into town, Hissing Prigs will have to tide us non-Midwesterners over, a gentle reminder that anticipation -- for corn to grow, for the arrival of "occupant" mail -- can be a good thing.

-- Colin Berry

Jacky Terrasson
Reach
(Blue Note)

Often, it's only after realizing the relative security brought by a major label deal that a young jazz musician begins to show signature eclecticisms. In the case of Paris-born pianist Jacky Terrasson's second Blue Note recording, Reach, five compositions reveal a modus operandi further developed in the year since his self-titled debut.

Even though he categorically departs from major influences Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, except for the occasional reference, he dedicates the first cut, "I Should Care," to these piano titans. To be exact, this tune features Powell-like runs with Monk-ish accents, but only at intervals and paraphrased rather than quoted directly. On "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," Terrasson recasts this ballad made familiar by Nat "King" Cole into a tune of surges in both volume and velocity. Again, on "Just One of Those Things," Terrasson dips in and out of the piece's contours to explore his own associations, and no matter where the excursions lead, Terrasson darts back to familiar phrasings -- this, in fact, has become his definitive style.

Terrasson's trio with bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Leon Parker prefers the minimalist approach. With half a drum kit, Parker creates cymbal patter that often mediates between lyrical segments, while Okegwo punctuates the sonic intricacies with puffs of diaphanous pulse. These musicians provide the equilibrium as Terrasson's piano figures run in circles or repeat, as in the aptly titled tune "Reach/Smoke Gets in Your Eyes/Reach." There, he splices a Parisian-sounding "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" with his own fathomable "Reach." No Velcro here: Terrasson smoothly mounts this nostalgic set piece within a larger installation that manifests his yen for collectible improvisations.

Reach is a flawless recording of a commanding performance -- no less than what was expected of him as sideman for drummer Arthur Taylor and singer Betty Carter. You can't help but wonder if Terrasson took Carter's cue to take any tune far afield.

Jacky Terrasson Trio plays Wed-Sun, April 17-21, at Yoshi's Nitespot in Oakland; call (510) 652-9200.

-- Zoe Anglesey

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