All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Owen Broder: Heritage

Jerome Wilson By

Sign in to view read count
The cross-pollination of jazz and folk music is nothing new, but saxophonist Owen Broder does push things forward in this exploration of the idea, asking five different composers from varying generations and backgrounds to each write their own take on American folk music for an eight-piece ensemble.

Besides Broder himself, the compositions and arrangements come from Miho Hazama, Bill Holman, Jim McNeely, Ryan Truesdell and Alphonso Horne. Holman, whose career stretches back to working for Stan Kenton in the fifties, does the most conventional chart, recasting Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" as a hard-blowing jazz shouter featuring sweetly swinging violin from Sara Caswell and hot trumpet from Scott Wendholt against sassy band voicings. McNeely's version of "Cripple Creek" also relies heavily on Caswell. Her wild sawing bluegrass fiddle is everywhere, set against anxious piano and vibraphone on the introduction, leading the entire band into a brassy hoedown and providing the climax to a wild round of trumpet, sax and piano solos all over Matt Wilson's stomping two-beat drums.

Ryan Truesdell's two charts are both atmospheric. "Wayfaring Stranger" is taken at a slow, ominous pace set by Frank Kimbrough's piano and Jay Anderson's bass which underlines haunting vocals by the chorus of Kate McGarry, Wendy Gilles and Vuya Sotashe. Truesdell's original piece, "Brodeo," starts with Broder on alto and Caswell engaging in a breakneck backwoods chase over a chiming background with a hint of Aaron Copland to it. Then the music switches gears to a more relaxed melody where Broder, Caswell and Kimbrough engage in a less frantic but still lively dance.

Miho Hazama is from Japan. Her two pieces have a more outsider perspective on the subject. On "Wherever This Road Leads" she uses weaving horn harmonies in a more classically-oriented style with an underlying folk lilt. This leads to graceful solos by Caswell and trombonist Nick Finzer over crashing cymbals before the inevitable hoedown sets in. "I'm Not Afraid To Die" is the simplest arrangement on the set with Wendholt delivering a lovely clear recitation of the melody and Kimbrough playing elegiac, jazz-tinged piano over warm colors by the rest of the ensemble.

Alphonso Horne grew up in a home with South African roots so he comes up with something unlike any other music on the session. "The People Could Fly" derives from a African folk tune and has Vuyo Sotashe leading the singers and ensemble into a swaying melody with flute and violin trilling dancing high notes. Then the music moves into a New Orleans funeral march tempo with Finzer braying wah-wah trombone and the entire band shifting into a minor key blues until overdubbed voices and handclaps slowly overwhelm all.

Owen Broder himself bookends the set with his two contributions. "Goin' Up Home" starts with a traditional folk lament played by the brass and vibes at a fast shuffle tempo which quickly evolves into vibraphonist James Shipp and Finzer soloing freely in 4/4 time as the group punches out the melody in sleek big band fashion. The closer, "Wiser Man Than Me," is a beautiful slow walking gospel piece with Broder taking the spotlight on solemn baritone sax cushioned by the vocal trio and Kimbrough's gentle down home piano.

The variety of approaches taken by each composer really makes this set stand out. Big band shouting, hot swing, gospel, bluegrass and African folk songs are all ingeniously woven into the fabric of American roots music by six dynamic composers. This is one of the early standout recordings of the year.

Track Listing: Goin' Up Home; Wherever This Road Leads; Jambalaya; Cripple Creek; Wayfaring Stranger; I'm Not Afraid to Die; Brodeo; The People Could Fly; A Wiser Man Than Me.

Personnel: Owen Broder: woodwinds; Sara Caswell: violin; Scott Wendholt: trumpet; Nick Finzer: trombone; James Shipp: vibraphone, percussions; Frank Kimbrough: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Matt Wilson: drums; Wendy Gilles: voice; Kate McGarry: voice; Vuyo Sotashe: voice.

Title: Heritage | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: ArtistShare


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 Out in the Open CD/LP/Track Review
Out in the Open
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Contemporary Chaos Practices CD/LP/Track Review
Contemporary Chaos Practices
by Don Phipps
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Changed Beings CD/LP/Track Review
Changed Beings
by Chris May
Published: November 16, 2018
Read We Must Mustn't We CD/LP/Track Review
We Must Mustn't We
by John Sharpe
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One That Is You. CD/LP/Track Review
Two Infinitudes; The One You "see" and the One...
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 16, 2018
Read Always Forward CD/LP/Track Review
Always Forward
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 15, 2018
Read "No One Is Alone" CD/LP/Track Review No One Is Alone
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 20, 2018
Read "Birthday" CD/LP/Track Review Birthday
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 1, 2018
Read "Close To You" CD/LP/Track Review Close To You
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 12, 2018
Read "Raising Our Voice" CD/LP/Track Review Raising Our Voice
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 15, 2018
Read "Anniversary Package; Lab 2017" CD/LP/Track Review Anniversary Package; Lab 2017
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 24, 2017
Read "Outer Spaces" CD/LP/Track Review Outer Spaces
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 8, 2018