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Killdozer by Robert Sabin

Killdozer is a suite of program music based on the armored bulldozer rampage of a mechanic named Marvin Heemeyer through the town of Granby, Colorado on Friday June 4, 2004. This Zappa-esque musical romp has a plethora of ancillary goodies located on Robert Sabin’s web site so that you have stuff to play with while you are listening to the six pieces of music that make up the CD. I would call this free, acid or avant garde jazz. Mr. Sabin calls it "avant goth electric neo jazz," quite a descriptive, if a bit long.

It seems that Robert Sabin is a born story teller, but being a bassist and not a lyricist he utilizes multimedia to tell his tales. I find the concept to be both interesting and entertaining and when it is done well it can be raised to the level of other fine arts. I am not sure what this particular outing would be analogous with. The story is very straight forward and given in the liner notes in the form of an AP press release. The headline raises a bit of an issue by stating that "Man surprised rampage plan wasn’t discovered," so I thought perhaps Robert Sabin was trying to get the listener thinking about social blindness or hiding in plain sight or the fact that we often underestimate the threats that life very readily shows us. Sort of "I’m building a tank to destroy your town because you destroyed my business," but I’m not sure. I will continue to think about these things while I listen to Robert’s music.

The band on this recording is Robert Sabin on bass; Brian Griffin on drums; Jason Rigby on saxophones and clarinet; and Mark Stanley on guitar. "Tourettes Guy," the first cut on the CD, starts off like a heavy metal composition but quickly settles into an acid jazz groove, using some very Zappa-esque riffs to carry the piece along. Which is to say that the music is complex, but not melodic; and it is driving, but hard to dance to. In "Notes from Underground," the music continues with interesting phrasing and a somewhat more melodic story line. By the time we get to the title composition, "Killdozer," we have a piece of program music with the drums ticking like a clock and the bass playing a line which seems almost like Marvin thinking before he revs up the Kamatsu D335A for his maniacal drive. The fourth piece on the CD, "Evil Bob Takes a Nap," is an interesting ensemble piece but I can’t figure out how it fits into the story. Maybe it should have been called "Evil Marv.... " "Red and Black" is perhaps the most structurally interesting piece of music on the album. It is episodic with the horns and strings alternating, however, again, how it fits into the story remains open to interpretation. Finally, "Nobody Does it Better" probably supports the stories of Marvin Heemeyer being considered a hero by some fringe elements of society. All in all, a strange and interesting album that holds up to repeat listening.

Robert Sabin has been on the New York jazz scene for over ten years and has twice won second place in the International Society of Bassist's Jazz Competitions. In 1998, he was a recipient of a fellowship from the Henry Mancini Institute. He plays bass in numerous musical genres including contemporary jazz, progressive rock, symphony orchestras, folk music, commercial recordings, and new music.

Mr. Sabin is also a music, and particularly jazz, educator. In this role he is the conductor/director of the Hunter College High School Jazz Ensembles. He is also on the faculty of Teachers College/Columbia University in New York City. Sabin is the Jazz coordinator for the New York Summer Music Festival and Institute.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Robert Sabin
  • CD Title: Killdozer
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Ranula Music
  • Tracks: Tourettes Guy, Notes From Underground, Killdozer, Evil Bob Takes a Nap, Red and Black, Nobody Does it Better
  • Musicians: Robert Sabin (bass), Brian Griffin (Drums), Jason Rigby (saxophones, clarinet), Mark Stanley (Guitar)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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