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Concert Review: Andrew D'Angelo's Gay Disco Trio

July 17th, 2009 at Cornelia Street Café

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Andrew D'Angelo Gay Disco Trio
There is nothing ostensibly gay or disco about the Gay Disco Trio, a group led by saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo and consisting of bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Jim Black. The trio’s name is derived from the last track of their 2008 CD Skadra Degis (Skirl Records). “Gay Disco” is a sardonic and explosive piece propelled by a faintly disco-like beat.

Skirl Records is a Brooklyn-based label that hosts the Gay Disco Trio along with other projects led by musicians including Jim Black, saxophonist Chris Speed, and guitarist Hilmar Jensson. Founded in 2006 by Speed, Skirl shines a light on the area where jazz, indie rock, and experimental improvisation meet.

The Gay Disco Trio deals in large doses of intensity, all the while examining the juxtaposition of reluctant sentimentality with irreverent humor, and pushing the music to a point of sustained volatility. The second set of their show at Cornelia Street Café on July 17th, 2009, which fused elements of free jazz, rock, and funk, tended to lean on the side of high-energy, unguarded effusiveness, so the moments of vulnerability were especially poignant.

D’Angelo, who had a brain tumor removed in 2008, announced that he would rest periodically during the set. If he did rest, it was not apparent to the audience. The relentless vitality in his playing no doubt mirrors that of his struggle during his recent brush with death. But his resolve isn’t so consuming that it crowds out moments of weakness. In the set opener, “Norman,” his initial force over Jim Black’s brutish and loose rock beat suddenly yielded to sweetness, and the uneven vibrato in his tone resembled a human voice on the brink of tears.

In “Youth 2,” D’Angelo resumed an aggressive stance, with short crisp bursts of melodic fragments punctuated with a popping articulation. Only with sustained notes did vulnerability creep in again, when his tone took on a wailing quality. Trevor Dunn’s happily meandering bass lines and Jim Black’s broken grooves represented the child-like condition of being stuck between complacency and frustrated naiveté.

The Gay Disco Trio’s new album is set for release sometime this summer.

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