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

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read For You CD/LP/Track Review
For You
by Patrick Burnette
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Espace Cardin 1977 CD/LP/Track Review
Espace Cardin 1977
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review
Song of No Regrets
by Peter Hoetjes
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Ay  Que Boogaloo! CD/LP/Track Review
Ay Que Boogaloo!
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 12, 2018
Read When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions CD/LP/Track Review
When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Lake Geneva CD/LP/Track Review
Lake Geneva
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 11, 2018
Read "Summerwind" CD/LP/Track Review Summerwind
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 16, 2018
Read "Deciduous/Midwestern Edition Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Deciduous/Midwestern Edition Vol. 1
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 3, 2018
Read "Ravensburg" CD/LP/Track Review Ravensburg
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "Tailwind" CD/LP/Track Review Tailwind
by Gareth Thompson
Published: October 8, 2018
Read "R&D" CD/LP/Track Review R&D
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: October 9, 2018
Read "The Pocket Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Stangel – Beethoven Revisited Symphonies 1-9" CD/LP/Track Review The Pocket Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Stangel –...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 24, 2018