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Andrew Downing: Otterville

Dan McClenaghan By

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Canada's Downing clan hails from the Ontario tobacco belt town, Otterville. Andrew Downing—bassist/cellist/composer—home-ported in Toronto now, celebrates the familial stomping grounds with a two CD set laid down by a sextet, plus guests, of an unusual instrumentation. It's an immersion into the simplicity and tranquility of the out-of-the-way, small town experience.

Each of the tunes takes the baton from one of the great American tune-smith's—Gershwin, Mercer, Dizzy Gillespie, Jerome Kern, and more—by borrowing bits from classic songs and re-imagining them, painting them in soft pastels, in superb arrangements that blur the instrumental tones into a dream-like luminescent whole. Central to the sound is Christine Bougie's lap steel guitar, with its soft metallic twang and endless sustain. Combine this with Michael Davidson's incandescent vibraphone, Downing's warm cello lines, and Tara Davidson's restrained, serve-the-music-to-perfection alto sax inside the subtle rhythm of Paul Matthew's bass guitar and Nick Frazier's drums, and the covert undertones of guests Rebecca Hennessy's trumpet and William Carn's, and you have a alluring listening experience.

All compositions are from Downing's pen, with the exceptions of "Family Portrait," written by saxophonist Davidson; and Duke Ellington's "Take The 'A' Train." Downing has fine-focused an original vision, a sound that draws from the country/folk genre, the chamber jazz moods of The Modern Jazz Quartet, the nostalgia of Bill Frisell's Americana, Daniel Lanois' atmospherics, tinted, perhaps, with classical stylings.

One of the joys of jazz appreciation is the discovery of talented and distinctive "underground" artists who haven't established big, New York-based profiles, fronting fine-tuned ensembles that create compelling musical worlds, like Andrew Downing and his Otterville.

Track Listing: CD 1: This Year's Fancies; Head Start; All Alone On the Mountain; I'm No Good Without You; Numbers You Know; A Pair Of Eyes; Family Portrait; Rhyme. CD 2: Fall In Line; Parade; Mooning About; Take The 'A' Train; Observatory; Wish; Leaving Me With A Memory.

Personnel: Andrew Downing: cello; Tara Davidson: alto saxophone; Christine Bougie: lap steel guitar; Michael Davidson: vibraphone; Paul Matthew: bass guitar; Nick Fraser: drums. With: Rebecca Hennessy: trumpet; William Carn: trombone.

Title: Otterville | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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