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Sonic Forays

Funky Metal Thunder: D'Armous Boone busy breaking musical barriers.

The musical explorations of D. Boone

By Nicky Baxter

AN ACQUAINTANCE of mine was about to bail on me--smack in the middle of a set by the D'Armous Boone Collective at San Jose's Agenda Lounge. Watching the radio jock weave his way through the densely packed club toward the exit sign, I wondered if my ears were deceiving me. Peering through the smoke-filled haze, it was plain that people were grooving to the Collective's sonic forays.

At that memorable show, Boone's sextet expertly negotiated a welter of constantly shifting time signatures as though the tricky terrain had been carefully mapped out well in advance. The slight but wiry Boone wrestled with his tenor saxophone, wrenching furiously spiraling shards of funky metal thunder out of it. A startled-looking woman sitting next to me leaned over and asked the question that must have stumped my friend: "What sort of jazz is this?"

Boone himself calls the unit's sound "Diaspora Music." The 25-year-old musician and composer has been shaping and refining the concept since the turn of the decade. A music major at UC-Berkeley, Boone worked with highly regarded music professors Andrew Imbrie and Ollie Wilson, graduating with a degree in music composition in 1991.

"I learned a lot," he says of his stint at UC. One of the lessons involved listening more analytically to the music with which he was already familiar. It was John Coltrane's raging soul music that first pricked young Boone's ears. Later, Boone explored the works of other great improvisationalists, particularly reedman Anthony Braxton, pianist Cecil Taylor and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. At the same time, Boone has always delved into funk.

It was, then, perhaps inevitable that Boone would hook up with Steve Coleman's "sonic commune," Macro Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations (a.k.a. M-BASE), given the latter's abiding addiction for fusing funk's earthy bottom line with the daunting experimentalism of jazz's "New Thing."

Although Boone, inspired by Coleman's concepts, would go on to restructure his post-Berkeley quartet, allowing for more flexibility in terms of size and sonic "shape," the music issuing from his collective is his own. When you attend a Boone group performance, beware of expectations. He might show up with a pared-down unit, a little big band or a stage full of extras a la George Clinton. Funky but knotty, this collective's grooves kick down the doors separating black body-music bop, neobop and free jazz.

D'Armous Boone plays Sundays at 9pm at the Agenda Lounge, 399 S. First St., San Jose. There is no cover. (408/287-3991)

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From the May 2-8, 1996 issue of Metro

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