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The Doug Perry Ensemble's unique setup and meshing of styles draw a diverse audience

By Sonya Hobson · March 29th, 2001 · Locals Only
  The Doug Perry Ensemble
The Doug Perry Ensemble

A singing, songwriting drummer -- let's face it, that's rare. But why is it such a novelty?

Doug Perry ought to know. He is the lead vocalist, percussionist and songwriter for the Doug Perry Ensemble.

"I didn't know that it was a novel thing," he says. "I just did it. It wasn't contrived."

Perry says seeing the front man behind a drum set seems to really appeal to audiences. "It's a fun thing to watch, and I never realized it," says Perry. "But people hear with their eyes." And so, Perry says, the Ensemble is quickly earning a following in Cincinnati.

The core of the Doug Perry Ensemble is a trio: Perry, keyboardist Eric Baumgartner and bassist Mike Perry (Doug's brother). The three have been together about a year and a half. "It's an exciting time right now, because it's just starting to blossom. With a trio, I think you can move as one," says Perry. "We're developing a telepathy."

According to Perry, this telepathy has evolved their live shows so that now the highlights are the improvised segments.

"It has to do with listening to each other and improving and creating on the spot," he says. "We've always loved to jam. The cool thing about it is that people just get off on it."

Perry describes the sound of the Ensemble as "the taste and elegance of Jazz with the muscle of Rock." Basically, it is a mix of many different genres including Jazz, Latin, R&B, and Pop. "It's melodic, it's original in the chord patterns, and it's dramatic in the intensity of the creation that's going on," he explains.

"We try to create textural variety," he adds. "We might do something funky, and then turn around and do something real romantic." Perry says the trick is "trying to have smart ears, trying to know what's tasteful and still satisfy your own sense of what works."

Perry is proud of the fact that the band's diversity draws an eclectic crowd. With a drummer as the front man, it's not surprising that drums get a feature role at a DPE show, something audiences have really seemed to enjoy.

"We do one or two percussion breaks each set," Perry says. "It's so primal -- people love rhythm."

Perry says that he is using twice as many drums now as when they started. Actually, in a live show, you'll probably see a wide range of instruments being used. Perry likes to grab a small drum and go out into the audience from time to time.

The Doug Perry Ensemble has just released its third CD, Street Stories, a compilation of nine tracks all written and produced by Perry. In fact, Perry is also known as a visual artist: He created the cover art of Street Stories (and illustrations in CityBeat).

Finishing a CD is a lot of work, Perry says: "It's a terrible ordeal to make things as perfect as they can be." But, he adds, "if you're 97 percent happy, then you're probably doing real well."

Of course, he says there are always going to be things you wish you could go back and change on a CD. But overall, he's proud of the way Street Stories came out. "It's got to touch the magic inside you," he adds. "That's the goal, anyway."

Perry says he looks at the CD as an art piece and the live performances as "the thrill of velocity." The band hopes to capture the intensity of their live show on the next CD, which Perry says will probably be recorded live.

One particular track on Street Stories, "Above Below," was a big risk for the band. Perry says because the song is just voice and piano, it is "naked and vulnerable." But, because the song is about a man becoming homeless, the song's nakedness really adds to its theatrical power. "Above Below" is "a step toward growing up as an artist," says Perry, because it gave him an opportunity to take on a role in song.

THE DOUG PERRY ENSEMBLE has a CD release party for Street Stories on Saturday at the Celestial in Mount Adams. The CD is available at the CD Warehouse, Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood and Border's in Tri-County.



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