Monday, August 16, 2010

Christian Howes - Out of the Blue (Resonance Records, 2010)

The violin has a rich although somewhat neglected history in both blues and jazz, and on this album violinist Christian Howes aims to blend those historical elements together with a more modern sensibility to produce a musical hybrid that straddles both jazz and blues. The featured guest on this album is guitarist Robben Ford who contributes some nice bluesy solos and the band is rounded out with Bobby Floyd and Tamir Hendelman on keyboards, Kevin Axt on bass and Joel Rosenblatt and drums. Opening with Chick Corea's "Fingerprints" the band sets a fast pace led by sawing and swirling violin over percussive piano with bass and drums, before Ford's guitar enters and downshifts the tempo. Swinging mid-tempo violin opens "I'm Walkin'" before giving way to a rippling piano solo and a calm and easy guitar interlude. Horace Silver's "Cape Verdean Blues" has a slow violin intro building to the swaying melody sounding confident and patient. Howes' original "Gumbo Klomp" alters the formula with the addition of bubbling organ and bass, with guitar cutting a fine groove. "Out of the Blue" is a slowly building ballad that uses thick organ and bass as a foundation. Ford picks up the pace with a well considered bluesy solo. Sharon Hendrix sits in on vocals for the gospel tinged "Seek and Ye Shall Find" wrapping her subtle vocals around guitar and violin interludes. "Bobby's Bad" picks the pace back up with guitar and organ building a strong soul jazz groove. Ford crafts a patient solo over the bubbling organ, before making way to swirling violin. "Sing Me Softly of the Blues" has a mix of churchy organ and piano in a open ended ballad format. Dreamy violin drifts along with the organ, making for an interesting combination of sounds that work well together. The group gets adventurous with a version of Ornette Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave" which develops a fast and free-bopping feel with fast violin features over the piano trio, leading into a drum solo. A gentle version of the standard "Sweet Lorraine" concludes the album for just the acoustic duet of violin and piano, building to a softly swinging finish. This was a solid album that should please both mainstream jazz fans and violin aficionados. The band plays in a soulful and confident manner that shows the many shades of music that blues and jazz share in common. Out of the Blue - amazon.com

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