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And now for something totally unexpected. Something along the lines of David Grisman or Mike Marshall's bluegrass-jazz might be anticipated from a jazz mandolinist, yes? But Michael Lampert is a master of the four-string electric mandolin, a rare beast indeed. Without the added sonority of the usual double-courses of strings, Lampert's instrument sounds much closer to a high-pitched electric guitar than what is normally expected of a mandolin. That said, the music he creates with such an odd hybrid is utterly magnificent mainstream jazz with a firm grounding in the blues.
The tunes, all originals by the leader, are mostly in the standard head-solos-head format, and each member of the ensemble is given time to shine in the spotlight. Guitarist Tom Bethke is wonderfully bolstering and complementary throughout the disc, a great thing considering the real potential for clashing with the sound of Lampert's neo-mandolin. The rhythm sections are also appropriately sympathetic, and Roberto Vizcaino's percussion is a welcome addition to two of the Latin-flavored tracks.
Lampert's unit is right at home with straight-ahead bop styles, as exemplified by the up-tempo opener 'Ken's Blue Hat'. Lampert clearly admires the single-string styles of guitarists like Kenny Burrell and Charlie Byrd, and the higher pitch of his mandolin accentuates the vibrancy of that style. The title track is named for a lovely purple-flowered tree that's indigenous to California, and it accurately reflects the temperate beauty of tree and surroundings. 'Blues For Iain' is a laid-back blues that recalls 'Trouble In Mind', but with more optimism. 'Pres-Ly' indeed conveys the warm, carefree attitude of Lester Young that influenced a generation of melodic tenor players and is translated well to strings. All in all, Jacaranda is a joyful, consistently entertaining release that will appeal to fans of mainstream guitar jazz.
Track Listing: Ken?s Blue Hat; Jacaranda; Rumplestiltskin; Ballad in D-Flat; NWLA; Blues For Iain; Bahiamar; Pres-Ly; Like Jelly.
Personnel: Lampert, electric mandolins; Tom Bethke, electric and acoustic guitars; Tim Emmons (all tracks but #7), Simeon Pillich (#7), bass; Jeff Fish (#2,6,7,8), Thomas White (#1,3,5,9), drums; Roberto Vizcaino (#2,7), percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.