Tom Varner: The Window Up Above (American Songs 1770-1998)

Glenn Astarita By

Sign in to view read count
Tom Varner’s “The Window Up Above-American Songs 1770-1998” showcases Varner’s impeccable chops and sharp musical sense as he traces the history of American Song from the Revolutionary War through Bruce Springsteen’s contemporary “With Every Wish”.

The title cut-“The Window Up Above” was composed by famed Country & Western crooner George Jones while “Thirsty” Dave Hansen vocalizes in typical C & W fashion with all the sentiment and heartfelt rendering that one would expect. Here, Violinist Mark Feldman churns out some lazy yet effective Nashville style fiddling which pays dutiful homage to the genre. Varner and company perform Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad” in sublime or perhaps pensive fashion. Here, Varner’s French Horn work is emotional and emphatic which in turn, pays due justice to this Ellington classic. The Gospel tune “My God Is Real” by Kenneth Morris is soulful and spiritual augmented by some cool, breezy chord voicings by guitarist Pete McCann. Varner’s phrasing and thematic approach is cunning and makes for an enjoyable listening experience, which of course is evident throughout. The American Civil War classic “Battle Cry of Freedom” is utilized as a vehicle for hard-edged free jazz accented by Pete McCann’s fuzz guitar work. Everyone lets loose here which in hindsight could be a fairly appropriate statement considering the brutality and death toll of this historical armed conflict. The Civil War resurfaces with a magnificent rendition of “All Quiet On The Potomac” as the band summons images of the period signifying an ease of tension or a brief reprieve in hostilities. Hank William’s “Ramblin’ Man” features “Thirsty” Dave Hansen’s twangy C&W banter and Mark Feldman’s whimsical Violin passages. Again, Varner showcases his impeccable control and execution while hitting those high notes in a seemingly effortless manner. Bruce Springsteen’s “With Every Wish” features some fancy brush work by Drummer, George Shuller as Varner’s French Horn phrasing carries the melody while emulating Springsteen’s always passionate and forceful vocalizations. Tom Varner’s lone original composition “The Best Thing” is an ethereal and at times ambient statement that shows lineage to the classic modern day trio of Paul Motian-Joe Lovano-Bill Frisell.

“The Window Up Above” is classy and uplifting yet at times, sentimental. Tom Varner’s approach is steadfast and unique as opposed to being derivative or corny. A simply beautiful recording which should appeal to jazz aficionados, children or anyone who is willing to check out America’s vast musical heritage. Highly Recommended.


Tom Varner; French Horn: Pete McCann; Guitar: George Schuller; Drums: Lindsay Horner; Bass (selected tracks): Mark Feldman; Violin: Dave Ballou: Cornet: Steve Alcott; Bass (selected tracks); Thirsty Dave Hansen; Vocals

Title: The Window Up Above (American Songs 1770-1998) | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: New World Records


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Bright Moments" CD/LP/Track Review Bright Moments
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: April 19, 2017
Read "Syzygy" CD/LP/Track Review Syzygy
by Paul Rauch
Published: March 6, 2017
Read "Cantos Invisíveis" CD/LP/Track Review Cantos Invisíveis
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 11, 2016
Read "You & I" CD/LP/Track Review You & I
by James Nadal
Published: June 4, 2017
Read "Joy Comes Back" CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Sanctuary" CD/LP/Track Review Sanctuary
by Budd Kopman
Published: November 16, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.