Calling American Dreams a jazz album is too narrowing a description. This record is actually an odyssey through the American musical landscape. After recording Foreign Affair (Nabel, 2004), with a multi-cultural cast of musicians while living abroad, vocalist Laurie Antonioli's mind drifted back toward thoughts of home. In exploring her vision of America, Antonioli touches on standards, country, folk and patriotic music. These entries are nestled within a collection that also includes a good amount of material resulting from a marriage of her lyrics with the music of pianist Fritz Pauerthe longtime accompanist for trumpeter Art Farmer.
In lesser hands, these disparate musical ideals might have resulted in an album that suffered from multiple personality disorder, but Antonioli and her exquisite band help fuse all of these songs into a unified musical expression. While a song called "Samba Nada Brahma" might seem like an odd way to start off an album that speaks of America, it provides instant excitement as Sheldon Brown's soprano saxophone work bounces around with boundless energy. "Moonlight In Vermont" gives Antonioli a chance to showcase her superb scatting skills and bassist John Shifflett provides excellent support here. "How Long," one of five pieces credited to Pauer and Antonioli, has an alt-country vibe andif one looks past the saxophone soloit sounds like it could have come from the Emmylou Harris songbook. Brownone of the key ingredients on this recordprovides some harmonica work at the top of "Dreary Black Hills" and Antonioli's voice picks up a bit of country twang on this traditional tune. This song transitions into "Get Up And Go"an earthy, appealing original from Shifflettand Antonioli's voice takes on a firmer, focused quality here.
In addition to bringing stylistic authenticity into every song on the album, guitarist Dave McNab put together a gorgeous arrangement of "America The Beautiful." Antonioli slowly lays out the visually rich lyrics over a warm bed of guitar and Brown's bass clarinet work adds volumes to the performance. Freer forms of expression come through on the loose and woozy "Stimulus Plan," as Jason Lewis' jittery cymbal work scurries around and Antonioli moves in tandem with Brown's bass clarinet. Broadway also makes a brief appearance and "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" is taken at a relaxed pace, with pianist Matt Clark providing the harmonic foundation for Antonioli and Brownon tenor saxophone here. From start to finish, American Dreams proves to be a happy marriage of cultural appreciation and musical creation.
Track Listing: Samba Nada Brahma; Vienna Blues; Moonlight In Vermont; How Long; Sweet Sound Of Spring; Under Consideration; Stimulus Plan; America The Beautiful; Dreary Black Hills/Get Up And Go; Just A Dream; Oh, What A Beautiful Morning; Long Way From Home.
Personnel: Laurie Antonioli: vocals; Matt Clark: piano; John Shifflet: bass; Jason Lewis: drums; Sheldon Brown: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and harmonica; Dave McNab: acoustic and electric guitars.