Tim O’Dell – Before My Life

Before My LifeBefore My Life
Tim O’Dell
(Southport – 2001)
by John Barrett

This nervy group has much in common with Henry Threadgil: restless compositions, lots of percussion, and deep rhythmic brass(Ryan Shultz’ bass trumpet, which sounds like a tuba at times.) “Id” has a split personality: Shultz duels with Tim O’Dell’s soprano, then both fade to the background. In their place is a guitar (Steve Grismore)whose cool tone is grainy on the edges. Shultz whoops, trombone-like, through his solo; Tim starts peaceful before rust grows on his horn. This leads to “Before My Life”, where all is peace – meditating on alto, Tim sounds like Trane did on “Central Park West”. (Shultz is subdued, his effort a low-level hum.) As the guitar gains strength, you expect a storm to break out; this never happens, which makes it seem more peaceful. “The Fire Ants” scamper: Tatsu Aoki strums a bad bass and the two drummers chase each other. Ryan has a nice solo but the focus is Aoki, whose effort clicks like clockwork. The same applies to “Mr.Aoki”, whose namesake walks down a funky street. Marking time in metallic chords, Grismore sounds like a Fender Rhodes; Tim runs through a maze with his worried soprano. While his steps are measured, Steve’s are all over – his solo starts on a slow whine, then he raves like a rock star. The roles reverse on “Free by twelve”: over Grismore’s calm strum, an alto snarls. With each turn Tim’s phrases get longer and grittier – Shultz rises like a mad parent, with a stern fanfare. The storm then ends, but the feeling remains. Alone on “Angel and the Boys”, Tim plays it sweet;the theme combines hope with anxiety. The most straightforward of his tunes, I’d call it the most memorable. Shultz gently groans on”Ship’s Wake”, through a wave of cymbals. Tim sounds like an oboe; Grismore is nice and watery. And for “Jackslap”, everyone is in the act. The drummers go berserk, Shultz drawls a trombone-like bit, and Grismore riffs like an organ. Here’s where O’Dell takes off: he bleats the blues, in the tone of a dirty clarinet – and then he blares, a sound of the rainy night. Whether you like structure or emotion, there’s something here for you.