Trombonist, composer and bandleader Chris Washburne heads up a spirited band called SYOTOS, which is an acronym for "See You On The Other Side," which dates back to an expression used by him just before his successful cancer surgery to his fellow musicians.
The title of this album comes from author Jonathan Swift who, in Gulliver's Travels, coined the expression "land of nod." I thought after hearing this album that no one who listens to it will be in the land of nod. In Washburne's liner notes lies the explanation. Metaphorically, the "land of nod" is America, whose citizens lie in a state of semi-somnolence while "we are at the mercy of shortsighted, arrogant and self-interested leaders." Washburne, like other musicians (eg. Charlie Haden), injects his political unhappiness into his music. The cover of the album depicts a washed-out American flag, and three of the compositions are titled "Pink," "Off-White" and "Blue Gust" (red, white and blue).
Musically speaking, this is nominally a Latin jazz band that goes beyond that genre to incorporate funk/groove music that is just as dance-friendly as salsa rhythms. Technically, only the opening "Pink," "Land of Nod" and the latter half of "Guantanamo" are full-tilt Latin jazz, with a certain intensity that emphasizes horn riffs. I can't get over how much trumpeter John Walsh, with his clarion, high-range playing, reminds me of Marty Sheller, who enlivened Mongo Santamaria's band, beginning with his "Watermelon Man" era.
Washburne has a slightly rough sound on trombone, with a bit of Ray Anderson (not the bit that is wild and crazy), and he enlivens the music with his solos. Ole Mathisen is clearly influenced by post-Coltrane tenor saxophonists, and on "Off-White" and Ornette Coleman's "Peace," he gets off some virtriolic solos that push the envelope. The bubbling percussion is provided by guest artist Bobby Sanabria and conguero Chembo Corniel.
I would venture that this is an act one has to see perform in person!
Personnel: Chris Washburne: trombone, percussion; John Walsh: trumpet; Ole Mathisen: tenor
saxophone, clarinet;Barry Olsen: piano; Leo Traversa: bass; Vince Cherico: drums; Chembo
Corniel: congas. Special Guests: Bobby Sanabria: percussion; Malken Derno: Korean gong.