The Deep Forbidden Lake
is not by any means a return to roots for the Jazz Mandolin Project, since Jamie Masefield's very first albums under the JMP moniker were with three-man lineups including drums. This new effort is rather a distillation of his ideas, a sort of folk-chamber music in which he, bassist Greg Cohen, and keyboardist Gil Goldstein explore the nuances of melody provided by a wide selection of compositions, the breadth of which clearly illustrates Jamie's eclectic taste (the result of which can bring tunes from Hendrix, Weather Report, and Sonny Rollins into his live sets).
Far from the densely-layered contemporary approach of the previous JMP album Jungle Tango (2003), The Deep Forbidden Lake is as pure and simple as its black and white cover photos. Yet its availablity is inextricably tied to the technology of the new millennium: if you buy the CD online from the band's website, you are provided access to a digital package titled "The Navigators Bundle, including photos, sheet music charts, notes from Masefield, and four extra songs. Perusing this material, in combination with hearing the rehearsal recordings and outtakes, makes the production of The Deep Forbidden Lake all the more impressive: it may have taken only two official days to record, but the preparation, in both thought and execution, was meticulous.
Like another bastion of contemporary jazz, Pat Metheny, Jamie Masefield avails himself of two main routes of improvisation: stretching out songs and working his way into songs. Again in contrast to previous releases (such as the loose After Dinner Jams), the latter approach takes precedence here, Masefield's accompanists providing the setting that contrasts the fine detail of his own playing. Goldstein's lush piano work is the melodic counterpart to Cohen's deep rumbling bass on the European flavored "Tears and "Black and White. All three bring a light touch to Tom Waits' "Ol' 55, and it's little wonder that two Neil Young tunes keynote the album: besides the title track, the plaintive yet sweet strains of "Wintersong provide an ideal opener, because there's not a whit of saccharine sentimentality to be heard.
The simplicity of Masefield & Co's approach here is deceptive, as if the inclusion of material by Ornette Coleman ("When Will the Blues Leave ) next to Radiohead ("Everything in the Right Place and "I Will ) doesn't give you pause. No matter how many times you listen to The Deep Forbidden Lakeand it is so easily accessible, chances are you will play it constantlyyou will be entranced by it. Jamie Masefield's recounting of the production may explain, up to a point, how the album, as he originally envisioned it in the wake of JMP's tenth anniversary, came to fruitionbut it doesn't taint the mystery of it, the likes of which emanates from great music of all kinds.
Personnel: Jamie Masefield (mandolin, mandola on "Tears"), Gil Goldstein (piano, accordion, toy piano on "When Will the Blues Leave"), Greg Cohen (upright bass)