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Engine Studies: New Orleans Suite and Three Fifths

Florence Wetzel By

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Andrew Lamb Trio
New Orleans Suite
Engine Studios
2006


Paul Steinbeck Quintet
Three Fifths
Engine Studios
2005




New Orleans Suite was recorded by the Andrew Lamb Trio (Lamb on sax, Warren Smith on drums and percussion, Tom Abbs on bass and cello) three weeks after Hurricane Katrina. The first jazz release about this national tragedy, it covers the spectrum of the hurricane and its aftermath, including everything from politics, the power of nature, the plight of the individual and finally ending with hope for healing. It serves as an aural record and reaction to an enormous event which the nation is still processing.

The CD begins with "Dyes and Lyes," featuring hot sax work by Lamb and Smith's impassioned poem, with lines such as, "We're gonna rebuild it better than before/Of course we'll have to eliminate the poor/That includes the culture that the place is famous for." All the songs are standouts, but special mention goes to "Katrina's Path," where Lamb's sax is so focused it's spinetingling. The song changes dynamics from quiet and delicate to an absolute frenzy - just like the weather. Smith is, as always, flawless and fascinating and Abbs shows his full range, from sensitive melodics to vigorous attack. Another gem is "Back Water," featuring beautiful percussion, including Smith on elephant bell and Lamb and Abbs joining him on a variety of other bells. The CD is full of rich, passionate sounds, making it an essential release on many levels.

Three Fifths by the Paul Steinbeck Quintet (Steinbeck, Lamb, Niko Higgins, Smith, recently deceased Andrei Strobert) is composed entirely of Steinbeck's warm, beautiful songs. Many have a delicious Blue Note vibe, but there's always dashes of the unexpected, whether it's an electronic squiggle, the surprising sound of the mizmaar or percussion work reminiscent of birds on an early spring morning.

Three songs stand out in particular. "Godfather Figure" has a hypnotic vamp by Steinbeck that underlies and supports Lamb and Higgins' impeccably synchronized horns. The song has a great groove and multi-layered rhythms that are absolutely infectious. "I Am Your Host," a remembrance of seminal bassist Malachi Favors, uses a thumb piano pattern for the bass line and features mellow, bluesy lines by Higgins and Lamb. "Miss Ms" is a fabulous song, its funky, bluesy melody capturing the easy flowing grace of Mississippi. Steinbeck's bass playing really stands out on this song; he digs in deep, setting up fundamental grooves that provide a strong, flexible backbone. All the musicians shine, especially Lamb with his pure, emotive tone and Smith with his endless inventiveness.


Tracks and Personnel

New Orleans Suite

Tracks: 1. Dyes and Lyes; 2. Katrina's Path; 3. Rescue Me; 4. Back Water; 5. Song of the Miracle Lives; 6. Aftermath Healing.

Personnel: Andrew Lamb: tenor sax, flute, clarinet, harmonica; Warren Smith: drums and percussion; Tom Abbs: bass and cello.

Three Fifths

Tracks: 1. Three Fifths; 2. Godfather Figure; 3. I Am Your Host; 4. A for the A of ACM; 5. Miss MS; 6. We Art; 7. Slow hour; 8. Three Fifths.

Personnel: Paul Steinbeck: bass, percussion, bamboo flute; Andrew Lamb: tenor sax, flute, mizmaar, percussion; Niko Higgins: saxophone, percussion; Warren Smith: percussion, drums, whistle (human), maracas mbira; Andrei Strobert: vocals and percussion.


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