|photo by Sasha Israel|
"Heritage" the American Roots Project" comes at a time when young people's belief in the "American Experiment" is at its lowest ebb in years. This music serves as a reminder that we are truly a nation of immigrants, that artists and musicians are inspired by the various cultures encountered in their daily and working life, and that imagination and improvisation can help open eyes to new possibilities.
To learn more, go to www.americanrootsproject.com.
Here's the opening track:
blend "traditional American folk and pop music with elements of contemporary R&B and modern jazz" (www.cowboysandfrenchmen.com).
The music does defy expectations. There's the tension-filled "Beasts" (with a Steve Reich-like rhythm and the feel of a piece by the Claudia Quintet), the funky, swaggering, "Companion Plan" (listen to how the bass, piano, and drums create an atmosphere that may remind some of Steely Dan, and "Wayfarer", the quintet take on "Wayfaring Stranger" (the baritone sax taking the lead here before it joins the alto sax for a hypnotic melody). Ziemba's piano solo on the last track has elements of Jewish liturgical music as his lines sway and slither over the over the bass and drums.
"Clear Head", the song written by Misch-Bloxdorf, opens with the soprano and alto saxes playing a pleasing melody with support from drummer Honor. Then it drops into a rapid-fire beat, falling back to half-time and then rubato. There are several tempo variations as the soprano sax delivers a rousing solo. Helm's ballad "Lilies Beneath a Bridge" has a handsome melody played by the alto saxes that are just slightly off-kilter creating a doppler effect. Ziemba's sweet yet bittersweet piano solo is a highlight but so pay attention to the rhythm section supports and prods him forward.
"Bluer Than You Think" is one of the more playful, diverse, surprising, and pleasing albums of the past year. Tradition takes a back seat to invention and experimentation while most of the pieces have intelligent and lovely melodies. Several of the tracks show the influence of The Bad Plus (especially the powerful "C&F Jam", though the piano solo has a lot of Keith Jarrett as well). All told, Cowboys And Frenchmen deserve your attention with its challenging and rewarding music. Here's a track to whet your appetite: