Boots Brown
“Dashes to Dashes”

Häpna H.51, LP (brown vinyl) + wavs
11 tracks, 38 minutes
Listen to: Dash 3
Reviews of “Dashes to Dashes” (coming soon)
Release date: January 27, 2014

Welcome back, Boots Brown.

Welcome back with a clarity of intent that pares down the dot-dash vocabulary of Morse code to dashes alone.

Welcome back, objectively older (eight years in between studio dates? Gentlemen!) and yet sounding strangely more youthful, ever more spry.  Dorian Gray red flags rise.

Lighter and more lightning-like is the Boots Brown way.

Occasionally, a hummingbird.  Occasionally, clusterings of flutterings.

Straight out of the gate remember to remind yourself: the absence of drums.  Which is not to say that the group lacks for percussion.  In Boots Brown, the percussion is shared equally among the four actors: alto sax, trumpet, guitar, double bass.  Witness the first track’s slaps of Johan Berthling’s bass and the crisply textured of attacks of David Stackenäs’s guitar and Mats Gustafsson’s alto saxophone.  (So good to hear expertly multi-taskable Mats holding fast to a single horn throughout these eleven Dashes.)  It’s the perfect edge of, the perfect crust to the thinnest of layers of ice atop sound-killing, sound-preserving, sound-inhaling snow.  The cracks, the snaps of attacks so slight now as your foot pushes through, compacts.  Listen to Magnus Broo contribute a trumpet texture closest in character to an aerosol spray—when he’s not contributing graceful, swift lines of piano-roll punches.

Lovely and laminal, aerosol and ice.

Descriptions of Boots Brown invariably focus on the pervading Jimmy Giuffre-like hush.  On Dashes to Dashes, the West Coast chamber-music gentleness remains, but the fineness of attack attains ever more nimbly athletic dimensions.  (I recall watching the summer Olympics on television in Japan and taking in long stretches of table tennis.)

Has David Stackenäs always had these post-bop chops?  On this recording, he decisively returns from the more distant landscapes of abstraction and exploration with which he is more commonly identified.  I can’t say that he’d ever previously put me in mind of Jim Hall.  Definite plot twist.  (I recall watching the winter Olympics on television in Sweden and Mats patiently explaining the unfolding drama of cross-country skiing.)

Dashes to Dashes suggests at one and the same time a sequence of miniatures—marvelously concise, telepathic instant compositions—as well as the longer arc and intuitive interplay characterizing a concert as a single lengthy group improvisation.

(I recall seeing Boots Brown play four nights in a row and reveling in—though, given the players, not being caught unawares by—how satisfyingly different each performance was.  And I didn’t need, nor did anyone else in the audience, any explanation for the eccentric, muted, human-scale drama on display.)

David Grubbs, 2013

Musicians: Mats Gustafsson (alto saxophone), David Stackenäs (guitar), Magnus Broo (trumpet), Johan Berthling (double bass)

Tracks: 1. Dash 1 – 11. Dash 11