Michael Rossetto: Intermodal Blues

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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In search of the roots and the limits of where a banjo comes from and how far the instrument can go, Minneapolis-based Michael Rossetto makes a journey from cinematic soundscapes to traditional western folklore with a jazzy spin to it.

On Intermodal Blues Michael Rossetto is joined by upright bassist Chris Bates and drummer JT Bates, who is also responsible for the dynamic production. Jim Anton joins on the percussive doshpuluur for some ornamentation. Together, the four dive into musical landscapes that have two common threads: the banjo and sheer variety. While the opening title-track tackles African rhythms with a bluegrass twist, the banjo subsequently moves into a Baroque movement on "Three on the Five," seemingly filling in for a harpsichord. The nature of the banjo's timbre however gives the composition a warmer color than a harpsichord ever could.

Following this pattern, the album moves through various settings—on the one hand rather engaging exhibitions, on the other, textures that ask to be savored in a more passive way. The cinematographic "Infrica" wouldn't be misplaced as a soundtrack to the view out of a car passing a vast Midwestern US landscape. "Something Familiar" on the other hand moves in a faster pace with a straightforward bluegrass attitude.

While the vivid and descriptive nature of the music on Intermodal Blues would make for an outstanding soundtrack, the album is able to stand its ground on its own right as well. Just when a song's slower pace seems to start dragging, an entirely different attitude steps in and takes over with vigor—the electric-guitar amplified "Ferry to Tunis" being an example.

It's refreshing to hear the banjo being given new life with modern as well as traditional twists to it. Like Bela Fleck or his wife Abigail Washburn, Michael Rossetto is on an intriguing path, rediscovering the instrument and embedding it into a modern context.

Track Listing

Intermodal Blues; Three on the Five; Infrica; Smething Familiar; Thornward & Heartland; Two from still; Down from Moncenisio; Ferry to Tunis; Magari.


Michael Rossetto: banjo, guitars; JT Bates: drums, percussion; Chris Bates: bass; Jim Anton: doshpuluur, tres.

Additional information

Title: Intermodal Blues | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Shifting Paradigm Records


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