Debris serves up a tasty mix of sound, word

Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe Correspondent, 03/23/97

Beginning a concert by marinating chicken, as Debris bassist Bob Ross did at the start of Hubris II Friday night, is not the most reassuring of openings. As the evening of music and spoken word progressed, however, the gesture was revealed as a most fitting metaphor for a surprisingly taut and persuasive presentation by the quintet whose Mobius concerts this weekend mark its 10th anniversary.

Beyond the sound of the blender, which segued into the guitar figure that Arthor Weinstein sampled for the first band number, recipes proved to be one of the evening’s recurring themes. The extended passages of text, written primarily by Weinstein, often provided directions, whether for playing with the morning raisin bran or constructing a book with phrases found on stones and in bottles.

Other verbal passages were drawn randomly from a basket by various members of the quintet at points in the evening, as if each musician had a standing invitation to season the creation to taste. These verbal snippets, as well as some of the musical scores, ended up scattered on the floor - another metaphor, on the band’s name.

The music of Debris, which included several compositions from its new CD, “Errata,” as well as two pieces played at its debut concert a decade ago, was anything but random. Most of it was tightly scored, with off-kilter grooves sustained by Weinstein, Ross, and drummer Curt Newton while Steve Norton and Jeff Hudgins blew caustic melodies on the various reeds in their arsenals. There were numerous colors created as both hornmen played alto and soprano saxophones, Hudgins added clarinet, and Norton employed bass clarinet and baritone sax.

Frequent silent punctuations interrupted the flow or triggered abrupt shifts of mood, and a tape from the first Hubris presentation at Mobius two years ago occasionally worked its way into the collage. The music maintained direction, for all its potential congestion, and there was never a doubt that each player was on course.

Hubris II was a finely balanced performance in two acts, with music and texts amplifying each other. The verbal variations took on the playful and often askew logic of improvisation, as in the “Wingnut & Halfpint” scene where Weinstein and Ross played office workers who threaten to “get plastered” after work but ultimately retreat to their separate existences as “closet homeowners.”

“That’s why they call it ‘homeicide,’” one quipped.

There were also meditations on memory and creation, and narrative collages involving all five musicians. Words and music blurred, sounds and rhythms merged, until the recipe was complete. When the evening ended, Debris had created a substantial sonic meal with a spicy aftertaste.

This story ran on page b12 of the Boston Globe on 03/23/97.

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