All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

228

Andy Biskin Quartet: Early American: The Melodies of Stephen Foster

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
On Early American, clarinetist Andy Biskin sets off for a good-natured romp through the Stephen Foster songbook. Tackling such distinctive material, associated with the countrified jazz crossover typically favored by iconic guitarist Bill Frisell, risks unfair comparison. But while Frisell has a quirky bent to his voicings and arrangements, Biskin is far more mischievous. He never transforms these chestnuts into clownish throwaways, yet his interpretations are anything but slavishly traditional.

The bulk of the program consists of classic Stephen Foster folk tunes arranged by Biskin; the remaining third are originals inspired by Foster's heartland melodies. The album charts an adventurous course through the pastoral countryside of America while flirting with more urbane tonalities. Biskin isn't afraid to meld country twang and heavy metal distortion with folksy remembrances; his view of these watershed compositions is one of respect, but also curiosity.

Biskin is a measured and lyrical improviser. Melody holds sway over typical free-play or excessive abstraction in his playing. His clarinet swoops and soars through these buoyant pieces, while keeping the innate melodic structure of the tune close to his vest. His madcap run through "Kid Proof" proves irrepressible. He even conjures a brief klezmer passage in the midst of "There's A Good Time Coming."

Guitarist Pete McCann is a perfect foil for Biskin. While steeped in the same Americana as Bill Frisell, McCann sounds nothing like him, preferring a more traditional, hollowbody tone and sense of linear phrasing, even on the rambunctious twang of "Fits and Starts." When cranking up the distortion, he still sounds utterly singular. "Early American" and "Old Black Joe" find him shredding the frets with fuzzed-out abandon. He even breaks out the banjo occasionally, and his zany flourishes on "Nelly Bly" are stirring.

Inventive drummer John Hollenbeck's throttling tribal assault on "Early American" helps spur on McCann's searing guitar, while his postmodern hillbilly polyrhythms on "Oh! Susanna" and "Fits and Starts" are enthralling. Trombonist/tuba player Chris Washburne's role is typically more support than soloist, but he gets a gorgeous statement on "Beautiful Dreamer" and reinforces the ebullient melody of "Journey Cake."

On this delightful album, Biskin brings to the fore bygone melodies, reimagining them as challenging, spry frameworks for improvisation.

Visit Andy Biskin on the web.


Track Listing: My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night!; Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair; Early American; Camptown Races; Journey Cake; Oh! Susanna; Fits and Starts; Hard Times Come Again No More; Nelly Bly; Thin King Thinking; Old Folks At Home; Old Black Joe; Dom Casual; There's a Good Time Coming; Beautiful Dreamer; Kid Proof; Old Folks At Home.

Personnel: Andy Biskin: clarinet; Pete McCann: guitar, banjo; Chris Washburne: trombone, tuba; John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion.

Title: Early American: The Melodies of Stephen Foster | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Strudelmedia

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Act Necessary

Act Necessary

Strudelmedia
2014

buy
Trio Tragico

Trio Tragico

Strudelmedia
2006

buy
Dogmental

Dogmental

GM Recordings
2000

buy

Related Articles

Read A History Of Nothing CD/LP/Track Review
A History Of Nothing
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 21, 2018
Read Turbamulta CD/LP/Track Review
Turbamulta
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 21, 2018
Read 3 CD/LP/Track Review
3
by Jim Worsley
Published: July 21, 2018
Read World Domination Vol 1: Furie CD/LP/Track Review
World Domination Vol 1: Furie
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: July 20, 2018
Read 20 CD/LP/Track Review
20
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 20, 2018
Read Frank Salis CD/LP/Track Review
Frank Salis
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 20, 2018
Read "Give Us These Days" CD/LP/Track Review Give Us These Days
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 30, 2018
Read "Songbook Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Songbook Volume 1
by Jim Olin
Published: October 12, 2017
Read "Heaven On Their Minds" CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume one)" CD/LP/Track Review Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume one)
by Chris May
Published: April 23, 2018
Read "Ilona" CD/LP/Track Review Ilona
by Anthony Shaw
Published: May 10, 2018
Read "Dodecahedron" CD/LP/Track Review Dodecahedron
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 21, 2018