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With this new release titled, Wong Fei-Hong Meets Little Strudel, multi-instrumentalist, horn-man Edward Ratliff exhibits an acute musical mind to go along with his somewhat entertaining and altogether diverse concepts. Ratliff and his New York City-based band “Rhapsodalia” go straight to one’s heart and imagination while injecting strong doses of whimsy and artful musicianship which is evident from the onset of the opener titled, “Bip Bip”. Here, the band blazes forward with tight, punchy horn charts amid an altogether memorable theme as the band melds jovial harmonies with a stinging and thoroughly cutting edge New York City – downtown–style modern jazz vibe.
The piece, titled “Nothing But Love” boasts big band style horn charts as Ratliff apparently multi-tracked his cornet, trumpet and trombone parts into the mix while Michael Attias’ husky baritone sax lines counterbalances this hybrid and quite stylistic jazz meets the – Far East – thematic approach! Violinist Sam Bardfeld performs sweet, sonorous lines while Ratliff, here utilizing the accordion daintily executes Eastern European motifs, brimming with jubilance and folk-ish lyricism as drummer Kevin Norton and bassist John Hebert provide the slender samba-like rhythms. On this piece, the soloists converge towards the finale and procure a bit of fun, frolic and modern jazz-style improvisational mayhem.
The band’s angular and edgy attack intermingled with Ratliff’s melodic yet often rousing compositions are distinguishing factors here! Ratliff’s gritty, roadhouse style trombone work along with Attias’ heated alto sax voicings, spark thoughts of a turbo-charged polka or in spots, a boisterous Greek wedding on the frisky piece titled, “Milos The Cat” as the gentlemen evolve the tempo into a burning swing motif. Humorous sound clips from a Kung-Fu movie on “The Wong Fei-Hong Theme” give way to a series of Oriental motifs, ignited by Bardfeld’s circuitous dialogue that segues into cross-genre choruses performed by Ratliff and Attias who engage East meets West atop a solid straight four backbeat!
It doesn’t take too long to figure out, that Edward Ratliff is a fine musician who possesses a clever and crafty compositional pen, as these lucid and quite memorable pieces often deliver the knockout blow in candid and persistent fashion. Mr. Ratliff’s spirited propositions might parallel that of an expressionist painter whereas; one’s fantasies or dreams are cemented into something tangible for the entire world to behold. Strongly recommended.
Personnel: Edward Ratliff; Cornet, Trumpet, Trombone, Euphonium & Accordion: Michael Attias; Alto & Baritone Saxophones: Sam Bardfeld; Violin: John Hebert; Acoustic & Electric Bass: Kevin Norton; Drums & Vibraphone.
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.