The new Aztec Jazz may be the most wonderful to date. Tom Russell has never been afraid to try something new and different, but he really outdoes himself on this album, a live 2012 performance with guitarist Thad Beckman and the 31-member Norwegian Wind Ensemble. What to call the result, which incorporates elements of jazz, folk, Tex-Mex and classical music? Who knows? Who cares?
As Russell writes, “The results were beyond our dreams. Sometimes it sounded like Western movie music and sometimes it called up Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain. [The Wind Ensemble] played behind us without overpowering the songs, and I think my singing is far better than my vocals on the original tracks.” Perhaps so—though his always-emotive vocals on the originals were pretty damn powerful.
At any rate, the Ensemble’s trumpets, oboes, saxes, French horns, trombones and percussion—inventively arranged by Swedish composer Mats Halling—put a new slant on this classic American roots music.
As for the 11-track program, all written by Russell, it makes a strong case for him as one of the great songwriters of our time. He covers a lot of turf, but always sticks to subjects that relate to his personal experience and passions. Highlights include “Finding You,” a poignant love song; “Goodnight Juarez,” about the poverty in that city; and “East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam,” about spending the late 60s in Africa.
Then there’s the apparently autobiographical “Criminology,” in which he sings, “You may think I’m just a folk singer, no, I’m a master in the art of criminology”—which may sound nonsensical until you check Wikipedia and learn that, sure enough, Russell has a master’s in the subject from the University of California at Santa Barbara. The guy is full of surprises, musical and otherwise.
Somebody should nominate Aztec Jazz for a 2013 Grammy. And it should win. But first the nominator will have to figure out what category it belongs in.
|Jul 12, 2013||Galway, Ireland|
|Jul 13, 2013||Mallow (Cork), Ireland|
|Jul 14, 2013||Dublin, Ireland|
|Jul 16, 2013||Portstewart, Northern Ireland|
|Jul 17, 2013||Belfast, Northern Ireland|
|Jul 20, 2013||Perth, Scotland|
|Jul 21, 2013||Gateshead, UK|
|Jul 23, 2013||Leicester, UK|
|Jul 24, 2013||Hereford, UK|
|Jul 25, 2013||Farncombe, UK|
|Jul 26, 2013||Oxford, UK|
|Jul 27, 2013||Hove, UK|
|Aug 29, 2013||Salt Lake City, UT|
|Aug 31, 2013||Denver, CO|
|Sep 01, 2013||Montrose, CO|
|Sep 04, 2013||Albuquerque, NM|
|Sep 18, 2013||Midland, TX|
|Sep 20, 2013||Conroe, TX|
|Oct 23, 2013||Winters, CA|
|Oct 25, 2013||Berkeley, CA|
|Oct 27, 2013||Santa Cruz, CA|
|Nov 01, 2013||Heber City, UT|
|Nov 02, 2013||Heber City, UT|
|Nov 03, 2013||Moab, UT|
|Nov 04, 2013||Salt Lake City, UT|
|Nov 10, 2013||Columbus, OH|
|Mar 11, 2014||Calgary, AB|
|Mar 12, 2014||Calgary, AB|
|Mar 13, 2014||Edmonton, AB|
|Mar 14, 2014||Calgary, AB|
|Mar 15, 2014||Calgary, AB|
|Apr 26, 2014||Los Banos, CA|