‘Tough Commute’ CD Review at Jazzpolice.com by Andrea Canter

Long-time cohorts in Portland, Oregon, guitarists/bassists David Martin and Mike Doolin teamed up on the well-regarded Reflection (2009). Once Martin relocated to the Twin Cities a few years ago, their collaboration required a “tough commute.”  Determined to make another recording of their original music, recounts Doolin, Martin “loaded up the van with all his guitars and amps and drove the 1,729 miles back to the House of Doolescu in Portland. He had just 17 days in Portland, and we put the time to good use, recording 11 original tunes.” The result, Tough Commute, will be celebrated throughout the Twin Cities over the next two weeks, with Doolin now making the long drive to join Martin, along with local pals Chris Bates and Pete Hennig. The release events begin Monday, August 25 with a 9 pm show at the Icehouse in south Minneapolis, followed by gigs at the 318 Cafe, State Fair,  Black Dog, Jazz Central and Hell’s Kitchen (see schedule below). At Jazz Central, the CD celebration will be preceded by Doolin’s guitar-making workshop.

David Martin was born in Toledo, OH and grew up in Charleston, WV. He graduated from Capital University’s Conservatory of Music in Columbus, OH. A composer, arranger, teacher, and performer, he played in the Columbus area for several years before moving to Minneapolis, where he lived for 13 years. In the Twin Cities, Dave led his own jazz trio and also played in Nachito Herrera’s Puro Cubano, Beira Mar Brasil, Latin Sounds Orchestra, Salsa Del Soul, Robert Everest and Havana Hi-Fi.  In 2008, Dave moved to Portland, OR where he teamed up with Mike Doolin, releasing Reflections. Back in the Twin Cities since 2010, Dave has accompanied many local vocalists including Maryann Sullivan and Paula Lammers, and performs regularly with the Bill Simenson Orchestra and Twin Cities Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Mike Doolin is a guitarist based in Portland, OR. He studied at Mt. Hood Community College and North Texas State University. With 4 decades of experience, he has performed with such Northwest mainstays as Mel Brown, Shirley Nanette, Soul Vaccination, Mitzi Zilka, LaRhonda Steel, The Flying Stickleys, Margo Tufo, Gary Ogan, Nancy Conescu, Body and Soul, Robert
Rude, and Cruise Control. Mike is also an internationally respected guitar maker who founded Doolin Guitars in 1995, and worked for about 17 years as a solo luthier, crafting handmade acoustic guitars for recording artists Esperanza Spalding, Muriel Anderson, John Stowell, Justin King and Nancy Conescu. As a bassist as well as guitarist, Mike has explored ways to merge the two instruments via the harp guitar, which he began building in 2006. In 2013, Mike switched to the seven-string guitar which provides extended bass range for duo performance. He’s also discontinued his luthier business to concentrate again on performance.

Tough Commute

For their new recording, Martin and Doolin again called upon Ward Griffiths for drum support, as on the earlier Reflections. Pianist Mike Horsfall appears on one track. Doolin served as recording engineer at his studio, House of Doolescu, in Portland. The eleven tracks are all originals, with Martin contributing six tunes, Doolin five, covering a wide range of styles from swing and bebop to fusion, funk and Latin. Versatile in many ways, both musicians handle a variety of guitars and basses throughout.

Martin’s “25304” (his old zipcode in West Virginia?) leads off the album, a tale of adventure and anticipation whipped into a frenzied state by Griffiths drumming. Dave’s title track (reprised on the finale) has a playful and somewhat sinister vibe that conjures cars weaving in and out of lanes and the congestion of freeway back-ups, the musicians cycling through phases of acceleration and deceleration. The longest track of the album, Martin’s “Laughter and Forgetting” is an extended conversation among the strings, supported by a steady percussion pulse. The dialogue becomes increasingly complex as heavier use of pedal effects creates more and more layers of sound. “You Know” is a more ambient adventure with fusiony harmonies. “Doolescued” (Martin) is one of a couple tunes that smack seriously of bebop, and in this case, recalling Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo.” It’s an up-tempo burner, bass walking furiously and guitar/drums gleefully trading. Dave’s “Yes, No, Maybe” is bright and upbeat, a jazzy fusion jaunt peppered by engaging drums and cymbals that drive the strings.

Of Mike Doolin’s compositions, “Compromise” has a steady marching rhythm yet also a pastoral feel, gentle and melodic. More adventurous, “Kenai” nevertheless has a more tropical than Arctic feel. “GMO” features pianist Mike Horsfall, and delivers a beboppish, upbeat weaving of bass and guitar. “My Favorite Martin” has a catchy them apparently honoring Doolin’s musical partner.

The recording closes with Doolin’s “Long Distance” cleverly melded to a reprise of Martin’s “Tough Commute.” What starts as a sweet meander soon becomes an ominous journey thanks to pedal effects, and ultimately that tough commute over-runs the earlier reverie. ‘Tough Commute’ CD Review at Jazzpolice.com by Andrea Canter