JazzTimes gives Folk Songs a GREAT Review!

Here's the review from the June 2010 issue of JazzTimes magazine:

We’re still looking for gimmicks, as well we should.  When artists like Shelly Manne, André Previn and Oscar Peterson came up with the gimmick of recording jazz versions of Broadway scores, they sold like hot cakes. So why not something called Folk Songs for Jazzers?

Gimmick or not, the result is one of the freshest and most cooking projects I’ve heard in a while. Saxophonist-arranger-composer Frank Macchia, twice Grammy nominated, has worked with a diverse group of talents through the years, ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Jerry Lee Lewis.

Instrumentally, this 13-piece ensemble is anything but traditional. Macchia uses four multi-woodwind players, a trumpet, three trombones (who sometimes double on tuba and euphonium) and the standard rhythm section. That instrumentation and the leader’s tasteful writing, which often recalls Gil Evans, help make this project a very special one.
Highlights abound, especially “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” which permutates rhythmically from New Orleans second-line to 5/4 and mambo before returning to the second-line rhythm. Vocalist Tierney Sutton guests on an emotional “Red River Valley,” and singer Ellis Hall performs a remarkable version of “Amazing Grace.” The soloists, representing the cream of the West Coast crop, are consistently first-rate, particularly reedman Sal Lozano and trumpeter Wayne Bergeron.  Special credit must be given to drummer Peter Erskine, who plays this difficult music with ease and grace. I’ve rarely heard him play better than this.

BRUCE KLAUBER

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