By Mark Traphagen on July 30, 2011
Dylan Brody is to storytelling what John Coltrane is to jazz instrumentals. Just as Coltrane never just “played” a song, but made every note his own and shaped them into something new and unique, so Dylan Brody never just “tells” a story. He treats the very words like musical notes, shaping them, bending them, shifting cadence here, pausing deftly there, aptly applying alliteration, and always with a sense of beat (in both the metrical and poetic movement senses of that word).
Dylan Brody stories, while I’m sure they would still be amusing written down, are meant to be heard. Brody’s 2011 live album A Twist of the Wit provides an excellent opportunity to hear the “purveyor of fine words and phrases” sing his word-songs. He is a humorist/storyteller in the Mark Twain/George Ade tradition, but his delivery is what truly sets him apart. And, as he says in his introduction, “I’ve been told I perform with an old-fashioned elegance. I guess that makes me a post-modern throwback.”
Perhaps the best compliment I can pay A Twist of the Wit is that unlike most comedy albums, I can listen to this one again and again. Just like a beloved rock album that still gives you chills when it hits those familiar hooks, there are moments in TotW that I love to hear again and again.
What’s that you say, “I say?!” And well you may. Or you may say, “I don’t say, ‘I say.’ I say, ‘You don’t say!’.” Well, I say you don’t say ‘You don’t say!’. I say you say, “I say!,” so say, “I say!” you must.
“I imagine her liking gray hair, this impossibly young, improbably fresh-faced young grocery clerk. Then I remember I’ve been coloring. I imagine her saying, ‘It’s nice this way, too.’”
Brody’s stories are sometimes extended jokes, sometimes poignant slices of life, and sometimes just shocking. As an example of the latter, in the middle of a tale about having your past unexpectedly come back at you, he tosses off in an email to an old high school acquaintance, “Aren’t you the guy I blew?” This after having already embarrassingly asked the same question to three or four other people who weren’t “that guy.”
But by far the high point of the album is the final track, “True Romance.” Spoken like beat poetry over a jazz bass line, the story is Brody at the heights of his powers. He relates a flirtation with an attractive young checkout girl at the supermarket. It all takes place in his mind within the span of the couple of minutes it takes Brody and his wife to pass through the line. He deliciously plays back and forth between images of the girl and her (in his mind) desire for him, his wife’s playful tossing of the grocery items to him over her shoulder, and a sweet elderly couple in the next aisle. He ends with “true romance,” but without descending to sentimentality.
Here’s a little “twist” of Dylan Brody to give you a taste of his style, a recent video dramatization of one of thet racks on A Twist of the Wit.)
Purchase A Twist of the Wit (Amazon affiliate link)
Disclosure: The artist reviewed here provided a free copy of the CD for review purposes.