The Willie August Project: Surrender to the Wind (2004)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The Willie August Project went into the studio, turned on a two track tape, and recorded these tunes. No overdubs and edits for them; the music is as how it was played. To do that requires a lot of confidence and guts. It goes to the credit of the band that they make quite an impression, and if there are moments when an edit would have helped, these are far enough between to create any kind of negative impact.
How does one describe the music, all of which was written by Ben Siems, except for the third track, which is a collaboration with Jeremy Hauer? It is quirky in its blending of folk and jazz, and in doing so it creates an atmosphere that is for the most part quiet, but with a strong lore of substance.
The jazziest tune is the title cut. Siems' notes on the guitar are juicy and loquacious, with an attractive underbelly of swing. Add some crisp drumming from Hauer and a fluent and erudite turn from Laura Caviani on piano, and this is a delightful ride. Caviani also makes a presence on the lovely "Nothing Matters but the Joy," where she unravels the melody with thoughtful deliberation. The ballad glows in shimmering beauty defined lyrically by Siems. The folkier side of their art is seen through the "Andean Fire Circle" as Siems turns up the heat on the acoustic guitar, shading the palette in warm tones, engaging in conversation with Jim Chenoweth on the bass and with Hauer. It's a nice one indeed, which can also be said of the album as a whole.
Visit The Willie August Project on the web.
Track Listing: Surrender to the Wind (Song for T.M.); Andean Fire Circle; Ramsey Hill (Cobblestone Prelude); Aspirations in Cobblestone; Lost and Found (Loon Call); Chilly and the Mustangs; Suite for a Dancer, Movement Six: Moonlight and Windows; Learning to Un-Belong; Taunting the Duck Squat Imposter; Nothing Matters but the Joy
Personnel: Ben Siems--guitar; Jeremy Hauer--drums and percussion; Scot Hornick--upright bass (1, 3-9); Jim Chenoweth--upright bass (2, 10); Laura Caviani--piano (1, 10)
Record Label: DiPhoCal Jazz
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock