Chris Biesterfeldt masterfully reinvents the harmonic possibilities of the mandolin and gives true meaning to the term virtuoso.
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
The mandolin has long fallen into the Rodney Dangerfield class of musical instruments when one considers the potential form and functionality of use in modern jazz. Bela Fleck has long been the standard by which all improvisational performances under the heading of jazz have been measured, at least till now.
Urban Mandolin is an old school straight ahead trio recording but with a decidedly eclectic contemporary twist. From Dizzy Gillespie to Chick Corea and from Brian Wilson to Bonnie Raitt this well conceived release is a showcase of the harmonic possibilities that can transcend the typical expectations of an instrument more closely associated with Bluegrass and Country music. There are some dazzling surprises including the Bach G-Minor Presto and the Frank Zappa closer "Rolo Interior."
I rarely read other critics simply due to time constraints yet I stumbled across a review on All About Jazz that stated,
"While the mandolin lacks the guitar's range, elegance or subtlety, Biesterfeldt makes the most of its assets, which include unambiguous good humor and visceral appeal."
Elegance and subtlety are performance qualities and much like taste, they are subjective. I believe the question of range is more than satisfactorily answered in the consistent high quality of performances and the subsequent variety of the compositions previously mentioned. Perhaps Jack Bowers was listening to a different release.
Some of the more fusion oriented compositions are deconstructed wonders including the Randy Brecker tune " Some Skunk Funk" and the Jaco Pastorius classic "Teen Town." Preconceived notions can cause both the listener and the uninformed critic to miss some great music. The trio here performs as one harmonious train of thought in what may best be referred to as an open ended musical exploratory with lyrical intensity. In short...it is a smoker!
Track Listing: Bebop; Quasimodo; Freedom Jazz Dance; Bach G Minor Presto; I Can’t Make You Love Me; Teen Town; Bright Size Life; Ready and Able; Armando’s Rhumba; Bye-Ya; Witch Hunt; Segura Ele; God Only Knows; Back at the Chicken Shack; Some Skunk Funk; Rollo Interior.
Personnel: Chris Biesterfeldt: mandolin; Adam Armstrong: bass; Eric Halvorson: drums.