I was going to start out by bitching a blue streak about all the 'thank yous' in the liner here—I mean, geez, this quadra-fold CD is practically nothing but! Gents! Mercy! Please! Then I caught the song notes in the 20-page booklet and calmed down a bit. The music came on, a be-boppy seraphic smile crossed my irritable mug, and I settled into the groove, forgetting all but what was pouring into my ears. Music without Borders is a salutation to Doctors Without Borders (Medicin Sans Frontieres) via the Muckenthaler Jazz Festival (hilariously nicknamed 'The Muck'), which is not, as it may sound, yet another one of those great Germano-European gigs but a SoCal event launched in 2005…er, in the Republican stronghold of Orange County. Hm. Is it me or is it the summer heat?
Glenn Cashman's Southland Nonet is a solid mid-sized ensemble with a big band sound and energy enough for a full orchestra. Cashman himself plays tenor sax and composes while his partner Eric Futterer is a voice teacher and the founding producer of the fest as well as a composer, contributing three cuts here. These guys obviously know how to approach everything with finesse. Not only is the music captivating—a panoramic snapshot of times past (Dorsey, Shaw) well blended with later strains (Ferguson, Mangione, Schifrin, even shades of Buselli-Wallerab)—but, in assuring The Muck would be a success from Day One, they consulted ex-Stan Kenton band member and The Lighthouse owner Howard Rumsey and came up with eight sold-out seasons in a row. Music without Borders illustrates precisely why.
I have no clue how engineer Jim Linahan achieved such a faithful recording in an outdoor setting, even if all the instruments were directly miked, because the soundfield is spacious while detailed and on-the-mark lucid, perfectly balanced, three-dimensional. The solos are exhilarating, especially in the 9:03 Fall Color, where, in one exhibition among several, Ed Czach treads a fascinatingly fragmented but linear piano solo playing around with the time signature. In various opuses, the horn section gets Gil Evans swirly and then individuals step out to extemporize as the rest of the band either churns away behind them or backs up and counterpoints, with Czach's comping frequently setting the pace and tone. Each member is top drawer and takes his instrument back to an era before New Age musics made both player and axe impotent. Not a single solo within the complex charts is less than inspiring and thought-provoking…not to mention swingin' and exhilirating. So, sure, have your wine handy as the liner notes mention but also make sure your thinking cap's polished up.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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