Cowboys & Frenchmen the Rodeo that rides

by Sylvannia Garutch

Cowboys & Frenchmen’s new CD Rodeo is a must for the listener that enjoys the modern jazz sound, but fortunately the project also contains plenty elements that are grounded in the tradition of the jazz language for those that thrive on the small group sound and interactions of the likes of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The writing and arranging on the album is a summary of how far the two horn sound has come over the years and what a group of excellent musicians can accomplish when playing together with a common focus and sound.

Veteran listeners of the jazz scene will enjoy the fresh compositions and feel of selections like: “Jazz Styles,” “Brode’s Abode,” “More,” and “Bells of Mindfulness.” All devotees of jazz make a fetish of holding anything that swings hard close to heart, but Rodeo does not have problem with keeping the energy flowing and the foot-a-tappin with straight eight selections like: “More,” the lightly funky groove of “Man of Constant Sorrow,” the twist and turns of the Latin tinged “Brode’s Abode,” the playful and conversational “Jazz Styles,” and the excellent ballad arrangement of The Beatles, “Because.”

These tracks have nothing that is dogmatic in sound or playing, and much of the pleasure of this album lies in savoring the little conversations that develop between the players; thoughtfully developing patterns and hip ‘licks’ that flit across the music’s surface, both by pen and improvisation. The playing vocabulary is forward thinking and pushing new grounds, but lurking inside is the 1950s classic jazz modernism. Each of the eight tracks have a unique character that will withstand repeated study: launching off with ideas – toe tapping grooves, and whirling figures of two saxophones conversing or swirling piano lines – and the listener will always be surprised to where the hip writing will take us next.

Rodeo will satisfy any jazz lover, a scenic roundabout around the predicable sounds with a lineage down into the history, so freshly done with emphasis on time feel first and foremost, multi-phonic sounds and lively counterpoint, allowing the music to breathe, solos rich in delicate and percussive motifs and an excellent cohesive group sound. A group of this caliber will always be a hip and witty ride in the music library.  Just get it!

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