The banjo as orchestral instrument?!?! Righteous idea when you think about it, but you don't have to just think about it, as Jayme Stone in The Other Side of the Air has provided us with exactly what that would mean and continues the modernist classical tradition somewhat in the way Charles Ives, Gershwin, Hovhaness, Harrison, and others blended elder modes with modern airs—or just plain threw most all the old rules overboard and started from quasi-scratch—but much more progressively, a rich chamber format of compositions that call to mind some of the more innovative jazz mindsets (start wth Kenton, then remember Anthony Davis). The result is blended with the uncategorizable work of ensembles like Penguin Cafe Orchestra knocked up against the stricter traditionalisms of Roger Eno and some contemporaneous Italiam efforts like Alesini & Andreoni's Marco Polo.
I'm guessing Stone is fingerpicking through an appreciable percentage of opuses written after imaginariums upon geographical wanderings. The opening cut, Radio Wassalou, sets the stage thereby. His personal voice is often as though damped down, the attack of the banjo's sound envelope almost invisible, making his strings a cross between koto and piccolo bass played through velvet, almost a secondary instrument to the bass guitar itself (played by Andrew Downing and Joe Philips) but occupying the space between that four-string rhythm instrument (which is much more than that here) and the horns painting the foreground. The brass and winds, then, become a wonderland of highly realized visions acting as both as tour gides and breezily lush terrain.
The title to this collection is taken from a passage by Rilke and appositely chosen, as Stone's work is quite spacious while as detailed and inviting as a beauteous wild island in emerald waters, pastel and sharply defined simultaneously—even perhaps a jungly patch Kipling might have written of. Other Side is another in the oft fabulous underwritings of the Canada Council for the Arts, for which I sadly can locate no U.S. counterpart. The level of intelligence of such enterprises is completely absorbing, and the Stone CD immediately takes on a mantle of timelessness despite its Romanto-Impressionist base. While honoring the past, it evenmore uniquely incorporates a vast later catalogue of influences and becomes the very soul of progressivism.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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