MARCH 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 3
ALSO THIS MONTH
Dregs of Dixie Cream of the Crop
You can hear the skill on the Dixie Dregs' California Screamin' -- especially if you are a musician yourself. If you're someone who has endeavored to master an instrument, you will especially appreciate the adept playing that is all over this live recording. It is busy playing with a purpose; energy with a focus.
The Dixie Dregs have been defining and expanding the world of jazz-rock fusion ensembles for quite a while now. Begun as a kind of class project in 1975, they have evolved and matured through the decades, sometimes taking time out for other projects, but always returning to the scene where it all began. The music they create follows a familiar pattern. It will jog to the left or right suddenly. Yet, they always return to the song's core groove, the common thread tying it all together.
Again, there's purpose to their playing. As true professionals, they don't go off on tangents just to show what they can do. Everything is designed to serve the song. Although the speed or the time might change at several points within a tune, it's still a tune. The theme and the tone don't change. Yet, given those self-imposed constraints, given the fact that they drive within the lines, it is amazing just what they can accomplish and how much they can fit into a single lane.
At times they are immersed in such a flurry of notes. They can play with such speed that you imagine their hands on the verge of spontaneously combusting right there on stage. Then suddenly they'll pull everything back and lay into an odd-timed groove. And it's not that they're taking a breather: their laid back grooves are just as challenging as their Mach 5 material.
Often when bands release a live album, the terminology used in the publicity literature is that they were "captured live." It conveys the image of some beast that can normally not be held behind bars, some creature that was once terrorizing a local neighborhood. But obviously that's not the Dregs' style. Their playing has too much class for that kind of imagery. Call it sophistication with an edge. However, it is fair to say that this band was captured live: captured in the sense of someone who happens to film a shooting star. What has been captured is a special event. We just happened to catch a glimpse of this talented band at work.
The sound quality is impressive for a live recording and the band is in top form. If you are musician looking to learn or just a listener looking for something above and beyond the norm, check out the Dreg's California Screamin'.
CRIS COHEN is a staff humor columnist for Renaissance Magazine. His work is also published weekly in three California newspapers and four online humor magazines.