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Steuart Liebig/The Mentones: Locustland

Jim Santella By

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From the label's name comes a moniker for Steuart Liebig's creative blues band: The Mentones.

Creative improvised music has many forms. This Mentones session combines the swing of jazz with the spirit of the blues. Each of the foursome participates equally, as harmonica and alto saxophone step up to the front line, and bass and drums provide a strong foundation. Liebig's electric bass leads the quartet over hills and valleys, through exotic designs that fit his piece titles in a rather loose fashion.

The broom has a special significance in blues jargon. So do boxcars, honky tonks, graveyards, drifters, and the Mississippi. As the Mentones take this show on the road, Bill Barrett's chromatic harmonica lends an authentic touch. His solos light campfires all around the world.

Liebig leads "Drifter" with an extended solo that sets the mood. Drummer Joseph Berardi provides a continuous claptrap rhythm to glue the solos together. The leader's pulsating cascades thump their way around the room a few times before focusing on what drives us from within. It's inspirational. Alto saxophonist Tony Atherton follows with an exotic dance that's made for travelers. Locustland appears to be filled with elements from all over the world. Barrett's harp solo follows with energy-laden phrases that dance in and out of folk music. Berardi pushes him to the limit. Finally, the four creative artists settle back on the piece's theme. It's sheer delight.

Not every piece jives, however, as do "Drifter," "Broom" and "Lightning Bug." Several require repeated listening in order to establish an impression. Suite-like in manner, Liebig's compositions sometimes ramble through repeated changes in meter and mood that leave the listener wondering. Scored passages may change direction abruptly, without warning. The Mentones' improvised solos, however, tend to follow a logical direction around the leader's theme.

Liebig"s big bass makes itself known as a melody-maker as well as an accompanist. The leader's melodies and improvised solos soar with a powerful, yet lyrical force. Unison phrases with saxophone and harmonica amplify that concept.


Track Listing: Broom; Graveyard; Mojave Boxcar; Drifter; Honky Tonk Burn; Westpoint, Mississippi; Small Fry; Burnt Umber; Nighthawk; Howl & Tumble; Gasoline Jelly; Lightning Bug; Nowhere Calling.

Personnel: Steuart Liebig- contrabass guitar; Tony Atherton- alto saxophone; Bill Barrett- harmonica; Joseph Berardi- drums, percussion.

Title: Locustland | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: pfMentum


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