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Cynthia Sayer: Joyride

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Banjo!—one's mental and aural images might include straw-hatted gents picking away at an attraction at Disney World, Stubby Kaye and Nat "King" Cole strolling in Cat Ballou, (Columbia Pictures, 1965) "The Beverly Hillbillies Theme," or perhaps the iconic "duel" from Deliverance (Warner Bros., 1972) There's probably no other musical instrument on the planet that's more associated with novelty, Americana and all-around Good Times.

Joyride from celebrated jazz banjoist and vocalist, Cynthia Sayer, lives up to its title. And, while the jazz here is more traditional than contemporary and there's a limited amount of extended improv, this is an exhilarating excursion via an artist's and her supporting musicians' talents that results in a funhouse of good music.

Sayer, a Banjo Hall of Famer and mainstay in Woody Allen's jazz combo and on his film soundtracks, has performed and recorded with a diverse Who's Who of jazz, popular music and the cinema—Marvin Hamlisch, Bruce Springsteen, Wynton Marsalis, Bucky Pizzarelli, and the New York Philharmonic. At that world-class level, Sayer and her 4-stringed buddy are no novelty. She's the real deal and this recording reinforces that standing.

Joyride is a terrific combination of Sayer's pluck, the wonderful sounds of Springsteen accordionist, Charlie Giordano, trumpeter Randy Sandke's Pops-like rides, and a Baker's Dozen of shrewdly selected offerings—past and present—performed by fine musicians who play with vigor. Sayer pens two interesting originals ("Banjo Blues," "You Talk Too Much") and re-lyrics another ("Man On the Flying Trapeze"). Overall, it's an eclectic hoot performed with sass and smarts.

Sayer's vocal chops fit the material well and add a saucy dimension ("Banjo Blues," "Getting to Know You," "Move It On Over"). She's got a slick way with words and can shine new light on time-worn lines ("Goody,Goody," "I Love Paris," "When You Wish Upon A Star").

While banjo-centric jazz might not be everyone's cup of tea, Joyride is an entertaining effort from a truly gifted talent. It's a "'joy ride" indeed.

Track Listing: Banjo Blues; Move It On Over; I Get Ideas (Adios Muchachos); Ella Miriam's Blues; You Talk Too Much; The Man On The Flying Trapeze; I Love Paris; Getting To Know You; El Irresistible; Goody Goody; Honey; Under the Bamboo Tree; When You Wish Upon A Star.

Personnel: Cynthia Sayer: banjo and vocals; Charlie Giordano: accordion; Mauro Battisti: string bass; Larry Eagle: percussion; Sarah Caswell: violin; Adrian Cunningham: clarinet; Jon Herington: electric guitar; Randy Sandke: trumpet; Scott Robinson: tenor saxophone, tarogato; Marcus Rojas: tuba; Mike Weatherly: string bass, backup vocals.

Title: Joyride | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Plunk Records


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