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Downtown After Dark: Doyle disc revels in dark dreams

Guitarist Mark Doyle primarily played his treasured 1954 Fender Stratocaster on his masterfully produced new disc “In Dreams: Guitar Noir 2.”

Guitarist Mark Doyle primarily played his treasured 1954 Fender Stratocaster on his masterfully produced new disc “In Dreams: Guitar Noir 2.”

— Syracuse record producer extraordinaire Mark Doyle again descends into the netherworld with his new disc, “In Dreams: Guitar Noir 2.”

It’s the long-awaited follow-up to his 1999 Local Record of the Year, “Guitar Noir,” an instrumental achievement unlike any regional record ever made. While “Guitar Noir” conjured film noir movie themes from the ’40s and ’50s, “In Dreams” clings to a single ominous motif, the power of sleep-induced surreality.

The disc’s 11 amazing tracks range from wistful to wicked, from revelatory to revulsive.

A few, such as the opener, “Mr. Sandman,” embody all of the above. The uncommonly slow, pensive version is spiced with a healthy variety of guitar figures that suddenly veer off into disturbing dissonances which shake the familiar melody to its core.

In fact Doyle’s arrangements meticulously adhere to each tune’s melody as his 1954 Strat essentially “sings” the lyrics to each wordless song, from the Everlys’ “All I Have to Do is Dream” to Ray Davies’ “I Go To Sleep” to Cindy Walker’s Roy Orbison hit, “Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream?).”

The producer’s reconstruction of such standards makes for invigorating listening, but the disc’s two original tunes are even more captivating.

The shrill incantation of a theremin provides an eerie backdrop for Doyle’s “Reve Noir (Dark Dream),” and his menacing, tremolo-laden guitar lines cut to the quick. Their bitterness is complemented by softly wavering chord clusters showcasing the lower strings. Doyle credits the primal blues styling of Johnny “Guitar” Watson for this minor-key tour de force which boils over with forbidden passion and dark portents. Masterful music, indeed.

Similarly, Doyle’s “Dream Tiger,” with its repetitively descending rhythmic guitar lines, evokes vivid images of the big cat stalking the jungle…or is it a human hep cat pounding the asphalt, looking for trouble?

Foreboding ‘Nightmare’

Doyle’s late dad, Bobby Doyle, was one of CNY’s top jazz pianists, and while “In Dreams” is no jazz disc by any means, Doyle does doff his cap to the genre with Artie Shaw’s foreboding “Nightmare,” Henry Mancini’s dreamy “Dreamsville” and especially on Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Darn that Dream.” Also showcasing the upright bass playing of Darryl Pugh, “Darn” recalls the work of jazz six-stringer Jim Hall as Doyle revels in Van Heusen’s swinging melody.

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