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CD Feature/ Joseph Benzola: "Crippled Symmetry"

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Joseph Benzola is all drums, percussion and electronics. Based in New York City his musical perspective is one of non-discrimination, revelling in all kinds of genres, spanning almost the entire world. Merely leaving out any classical approaches even the bamboo flute makes an appearance on ‘Crippled Symmetry’, an album which features him and his co-musicians John Asta and Dough Kolmar. But most of this CD is all about rhythm or, to be more precise, the rhythm-like structures of ‘Ritual in Four Parts’. As a matter of fact, these four parts feature seven individual tracks, and they lead the listener into sometimes chaotic, then again jazzy moods.

While Part One sets the dominant tone of the entire CD, it also overwhelmes in terms of the major theme of this Ritual. Lasting a little over 50 minutes, drums and percussion are up front, heavy and dissonant, refusing to do what they once where designed to do: Giving an underlying basis, a steady rhythm to the music played. In this case the groove section manages to wreak havoc and bounce back and forth in unsteady displays, threatening complete devastation as far as what we ususally accept in our minds by endless listening-experiences of ‘the beat’. It all starts out with introductory bells, supporting the idea of a ritual, an almost religious affair, but they quickly dissolve into a huge void. Like the title of a book you’ll read and never see again, it still preaches the gospel. What happens after that is a keen experiment: Drums and percussion take over,demanding center stage. They are upfront, not in the sense of a traditional drum solo, but leading the pace, setting the tone and even creating a certain ‘melody’, if this word may be allowed due to the lack of other comparisons. Even the electronics, which feature virtuous sounds, reminding the listener of saxophone and flute play, executed sometimes in breathtaking speed and elegance, remain in the background and, in this case, take over the traditional parts of the rhythm section.Thus, this CD is a true experiment with an astonishing result. Containing all accustic elements of comparable music, it turns things upside down and is a ‘vice versa’ example of traditional approaches. On the other hand, it contains traditional sounds as well, including jazz, even folk elements of countries in Asia and Africa and many other influences. The last track called ‘Unity’ is indeed an attempt to console any possible differences which might have come up. Here the rhythm section returns to its ‘intended’ function, laying the basis for the music. Although still in the background as far as the degree of loudness is concerned, but at the same time clearly leading the battle, it features an electronic masterpiece of the famous Hammond B3 organ. It’s hard to verify whether Joseph Benzola really used an original Hammond B3, but he sure made his organ sound like one. And not only that, but its play is reminiscent to many a famous player of the past in its breathtaking virtuosity.

At this point the ‘Ritual In Four Parts’ comes to a satisfying closure. Interestingly enough, this last piece has been recorded months before the other Parts. But this doesn’t matter. Regardless of whether or not you like this music, it is consequent in its build-up, and its intelligent structure is telling a great story about the possible variations in the tasks of musical instruments.

By Fred Wheeler

Homepage: Joseph Benzola

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