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.
|Jun 18, 2013||Aztec Jazz|
|Dec 03, 2012||Songbook and Art Opening|
|Mar 09, 2011||Spring News|
|Nov 29, 2010||Christmas News|
|Oct 10, 2010||Latest News|
|Feb 13, 2010||T-Shirts now available|
|Jan 10, 2010||New Train|
|Nov 30, 2009||Tom Russell/Dave Alvin/Steve Young Train|
|Nov 12, 2009||Tom Russell Breaking News:|
|Oct 24, 2009||Tom on NPR Weekend Edition|
|Sep 14, 2009||Amazon Sale|
|Sep 12, 2009||Breaking News - Record Shipping|
|Sep 03, 2009||Listen to a song on Entertainment Weekly Online|
|Aug 27, 2009||Blood and Candle Smoke!|
|Aug 18, 2009||Blood and Candle Smoke Released to Radio|
|Jul 09, 2009||July News|
|May 23, 2009||Quick News|
|Apr 01, 2009||Blood and Candle Smoke|
|Feb 27, 2009||Spring News|
|Feb 05, 2009||New Art and News|
|Jan 21, 2009||Breaking News! Tom Russell…The Great American West|
|Jan 07, 2009||New Year`s News|
|Dec 08, 2008||Recent Quotes on Veteran's Day|
|Nov 04, 2008||Tom Russell: An Authentic American Treasure|
|Nov 04, 2008||Southwest Train|
|Oct 27, 2008||Breaking News|
|Sep 07, 2008||Tom on NPR|
|Aug 17, 2008||Breaking News|
|Jul 24, 2008||Welcome!|