Like many young artists, guitarist Marvin Sewell's musical influences include not only jazz but also classical, popular, experimental, and other styles. But the one that is most evident and clearly spoken in Sewell's own vocabulary would seem to be the blues. His abilities on the guitar are spoken with a deep sense of history, energy, and soul, as most notably witnessed with songstress Cassandra Wilson on Travelling Miles
and Belly of the Sun
and jazz pianist Jason Moran on his ode to blues, Same Mother
Sewell's own version of the idiom is distinctive on his debut, Worker's Dance, with a band that is anything but your typical jazz ensemble setup: it includes guitar, rhythm section, Wurlitzer piano, and two accordions. The compositions are refreshing and lean away from jazz, while also retaining elements of free improvisation. Call it blues, Americana, roots, or jazz, the sum is enjoyable and accessible, hinting at Sewell's vision.
The first piece, "Uncle Red, is not your typical jazz intro. It finds Sewell playing slide guitar with the band, performing straight Delta blues with accordions creating a little Cajun zydeco vibe. Next is "The Journey, with a percussion intro and a lovely accordion melody as Sewell strums his acoustic guitar in the background. The mixed textures of the instruments are exquisite as the nylon guitar solo is supported by accordion comping and a confident rhythm section, bringing to mind a contemporary tango.
The centerpiece is "The Worker's Dance, which shows that Sewell has something to say as a composer as well. The song seems to tell a story with detailed parts arranged for each instrument. As a performer, Sewell's playing speaks volumes. On the solo "Evening his slide technique and the tone of his steel-stringed guitar leave a haunting aura which channels the listener into a different place and time. His augmented electric slide is just as effective on the ballad "A Walk in the Rain, suggesting that the essence of the blues is transcendent, whether in past or present reflections.
"Love Poem is a lighthearted piece that lingers with a catchy melody. The bonus track, "Curry Catfish, has an East meets West themethe band plays a Middle Eastern rhythm painted with accordion solos, lively percussion, and Sewell playing what sounds like a sitar. Whether it be the blues or beyond, this is an auspicious debut which comes highly recommended.
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Track Listing: Uncle Red; The Journey; The Worker's Dance; Mexico Blues; Evening; Insomnia; Big Joe; A Walk in the RainLove Poem; Past Reflections (for Robin); The Worker's Dance (refrain); Curry Catfish (bonus track).
Personnel: Marvin Sewell: guitars; Joe Barbato: accordion; Rachelle Garniez: accordion; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion; Jerome Harris: bass.