In an interview with Modern Drummer in support of their 2005 album, Nice Talking to Me, Spin Doctor founding member, Aaron Comess, describing his different personalities as a drummer says: “I’ve always felt like your first thing as a drummer is to serve the music, whatever the style or song or group of people you’re playing with. You really have to adapt. Unfortunately there are a lot of musicians who just show up and say, ‘This is the way I am, this is what I do, and you better adapt to me.’ I think the best music happens when everybody is listening to each other and making the proper adjustments to make the whole group sound good. That’s what music is all about.”
An eclectic sessions performer, his diverse discography includes albums with Marc Cohn, Joan Osborne, Rachel Yamagata, James Maddock, and New York Electric Piano among many others. While he acknowledges that he might be best known for his work with the Spin Doctors, that is really only one side of his musical personality. He is more than comfortable with everything from rock to jazz.
Beautiful Mistake, a new instrumental album, following the 2006 Catskill Cry, to be released in June, is testimony to just a few of the drummer’s many sides. The album’s fourteen songs, all written by Comess, build multiple variations on a basic rock foundation. There is low down blues in “Bubble Blues.” There is an almost Middle Eastern vibe in parts of the title song, “Beautiful Mistake.” There are Latin rhythms in “Past, Present and Future.” There are experimental riffs in “Limbo.” This may be instrumental rock at its base, but if it is, it clearly demonstrates the creative variety skilled musicians can build on that base.
“I try to make music that speaks like a song even without words,” Comess says, “where the melody plays like a voice, but with plenty of room for improvisation.” Listen to the lush melodic lines in “Kumpelicious” and “Morning Beach” or the quirky “Catskills Last Waltz” and the darker version in “Dirt” (on which Comess also plays guitar) and you can hear what he’s talking about. Melody dominates in much the way a vocal would, but the guitar is always given the opportunity to stretch that melody’s nuances. Rhythmic changes in songs like “Unleash the Beast,” which moves towards a cacophonous climax reminiscent of Ravel’s “Bolero,” add an exciting level of complexity to the music which contrasts vividly with the album’s softer moments. Whether it’s the funky “High Five” or the sweetly melodic “I Love You,” Comess writes songs that linger in your ear long after the iPod is turned off.
Joining Comess is Teddy Kumpel on guitar and “things with strings” according to the album jacket. Richard Hammond plays bass. Besides the compelling percussion that distinguishes the album, Comess also plays guitar, not only on “Dirt,” but also on “Limbo” and “High Five.” Tracks from Beautiful Mistake can be sampled on on Comess’ website.