A Smoo-oo-th One

Dominant Domain, (Acme)

Beeble Brox

By Jeff Kallman

I confess here - as I did to our esteemed editor - I put the cover imagery (computerized weapon-like thingie in watery impression in the front, in suspended ring on the rear) together with the song titles ("Quiet Earth,""Homer Simpson,""Dominant Domain,""Half Past Forever,""Raw Material," among others), added the band's name (it comes from the two-headed President in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and had an uneasy aural sense of confronting Devo meeting Metallica.

Guess who was pleasurably wrong about that?

Dominant Domain is actually a 70-minute-plus round of very relaxing contemporary jazz. The husband-and-wife nucleus, guitarist/synthesizer programmer Peter Kienle and keyboardswoman Monika Herzig, who emigrated from Germany and settled in Indiana, show more than a trace of influence from German electronic jazz legends Passport in their music, but Beeble Brox also seems bent on rewriting the fusion book without the excesses and pretenses which turned fusion into something dangerously close to antijazz in the first place.

They get some exquisite help from tenor saxophonist Bob Berg, a stalwart of Miles Davis' post-Bitches Brew funk and fusion periods, who takes the head on the leadoff track, "Quiet Earth" (written by Kienle, who divides the writing between himself and his wife), with almost ethereal simplicity and melodic precision. And he does it again on "The Third Passenger," perhaps the most lyrical of Herzig's compositions here. Herzig, by the way, is a graceful keyboard player; her piano work on the same track is simply striking, following simple patterns to weave very suggestively melodious phrases in her turn.

Not that Beeble Brox's own tenor saxophonist is any slouch; Tom Clark shows a fiery-without-flaming tone on "Homer Simpson," with good rhythmic sense and excellent control. The rhythm section - acoustic and electric bassist Jack Helsley (who is very supple and subtle on either instrument), drummer Paul Surowiak on most cuts, drummer Ron Brinson on "Quiet Earth,""The Third Passenger" and "Paul's Vesper-Schnell" - is as colouristic a rhythm section as you could desire without sacrificing rhythm or groove. Helsley and Surowiak guide the title cut especially with a surety and a sensibility, which evokes nothing short of Herbie Hancock's more inspired and more cohesive fusion outings.

Worth well more than a try.