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In Remembrance of: Benjamin Henry, Eva Burrell, Eric Paul Jackson, Bertha Smith, Leon Guitry, Jackie Hall
By Richard Henry on July 29, 2010

Author, composer, educator and guitarist Bruce Arnold current resides in New York City. His explorations into the applications of 20th century classical theory in contemporary forms such as Rock and Jazz has created a unique compositional and improvisational sound. As a guest artist, Arnold has toured Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States. He has played with such diverse musicians as Stuart Hamm, Peter Erskine, Joe Pass, Joe Lovano, Lennie Pickett, Randy Brecker, Stanley Clarke, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Absolute Ensemble under the baton of Kristjan Jarvi. His compositions are published by Muse Eek Publishing, and MelBay Productions. In his album The Art of the Blues, Bruce Arnold has applied the structural rhythmic and harmonic ideas that he has been working with over the past several years to the Blues form. These structures deal with small three note groups and the superimposition of time fields over a basic pulse. The Art of the Blues includes 12 tracks with Bruce Arnold on guitar, Dean Johnson on bass and Tony Moreno on drums.

The album opens with Cat Feet, that lets you know at first what the feel and approach this tune will contain. A patterned motif is played a number of times at the beginning. When the guitar begins to improvise, you can hear the motif played in the bass for a while. The eighth notes do start swinging, creating an enjoyable texture of music. Clever lines that are played in the space of the meter are very efficient. The drums manipulate the beat while the guitar and bass continue with the same rhythm. Time is bent in spectacular ways in a musical sense. The motif heard at the beginning is brought back towards the end.

A light rumbling of the drum cymbals is stained in the third track Indifferent. The bass is more pronounced, playing with the rhythm with an exotic sound. An active layer of versatile beats are produced by the drums. Duple notes that are placed uniquely in time are played by the guitar. The drums are impressive and rhythmically incredible. It seems as if the drums have a very extended solo. Motifs provide a symmetric structure. The drums play with a very balanced touch and give this tune a very good foundation to support the musical ideas.

Three and Fro , which is the sixth track, begins with detached notes that shape the beginning structure. The drummer keeps the beats moving. In the background, the drums are wild and chaotic but still stays with the overall flow. The recurring motif continues in the bass that always stay with the harmony. A call and response scenario occurs between the drums, bass and guitar. The opening motif occurs again toward the end. A forward motion seems to propel this tune, while at the same time you will hear unexpected variation.

 A guitar solo starts the eighth track Hocket. Tony Moreno on drums keeps bass moving in the right direction. The guitar improvises in a very complex way. Fast, unrestrained notes of the guitar are astounding. The bass solo is heard clearly as you can definitely hear the plucked notes very well. In this tune, the dark mood of the album is truly kept alive in this track. The guitar is improvising with feeling and emotion with seemingly endless musical ideas.

 Dean Johnson on bass really performs well timed lines in the eleventh track Inquisitive while you can hear descending musical ideas in the guitar. Arnold's virtuosity and command of his playing is remarkable. At the beginning, notes that occur on the upbeat project a feeling of suspense, especially on bass.  This track has a creeping, cool effect. The pace of this tune allows you to get into the vibe and essence of it.

I thought The Art of the Blues was a very interesting spin on the blues. It is unique how Bruce Arnold took a set of motifs and transformed them into the number of tracks on the album. You can tell a lot of thought went into constructing these tunes. Listening to this album is different than listening to other albums because of the analytical components that are the building blocks of these tunes. Arnold's music studies led him to compose these blues variations and it is indeed worthwhile. Check out this album and you will listen to a brilliant construction of one of the most amazing genres of music.

The Art of the Blues CD Review
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