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Chris Biesterfeldt: Urban Mandolin (2013)

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Chris Biesterfeldt: Urban Mandolin How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Bluegrass instruments like the mandolin, banjo, and fiddle have long been associated genres outside of the high lonesome. This instrumentation has also permeated the jazz and classical worlds as evidenced by the lifetimes of David Grisman, Chris Thile, Bela Fleck
Bela Fleck
Bela Fleck
b.1958
banjo
, Vassar Clements, Joe Venuti
Joe Venuti
Joe Venuti
1903 - 1978
violin
, Bob Wills and on and on. Mandolinist Chris Biesterfeldt places himself in a traditional jazz trio sans the piano and pushes the perimeter of mandolin-centered musical styles well beyond just jazz, though the better part of Urban Mandolin focuses on jazz and its rich and productive history..

Biesterfeldt displays broad and deep chops taking on canonical jazz like Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
's "Bebop," Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
Jaco Pastorius
1951 - 1987
bass, electric
' "Teen Town," and Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
's "Bright Size Life." That covers a lot of ground and still does not address the Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith
1925 - 2005
organ, Hammond B3
, Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
and Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
that shows up with Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
, Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
, and Adam Armstrong and drummer Eric Halvorson each have their turns at light speed. Gillespie's piece is a perfect tone setter for a collection that is dense with virtuosity vehicles for all instruments. Biesterfeldt takes a jazz approach with his rhythm section on Bach's Presto from The Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001. Looser and more relaxed than Chris Thile's performance on his Bach—Sonatas and Partitas (Nonesuch, 2013), Biesterfeldt obviously enjoyed recording the piece, playing with robustness and sheer joy.

And so with the Beach Boy's "God Only Knows" and Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
1940 - 1993
guitar, electric
's "Rollo Interior." Biesterfeldt plays these pieces straight...or, as straight as he can with a mandolin. Such instrument transpositions tend to reveal aspects of compositions other than those traditionally noted. But it is the organ funk of Jimmy Smith that propels the disc with "Ready and Able" and "Back at the Chicken Shack," on which Biesterfeldt and company, relaxed and confident, reinvents the music anew with their novel instrumentation.

Track Listing: Bebop; Quasimodo; Freedom Jazz Dance; Bach G Minor Presto; I Can’t Make You Love Me; Teen Town; Bright Size Life; Ready and Able; Armando’s Rhumba; Bye-Ya; Witch Hunt; Segura Ele; God Only Knows; Back at the Chicken Shack; Some Skunk Funk; Rollo Interior.

Personnel: Chris Biesterfeldt: mandolin; Adam Armstrong: bass; Eric Halvorson: drums.

Record Label: Self Produced


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